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President Thabo Mbeki Defends South Africa's Darfur Stand


South African President Thabo Mbeki defended his government's hesitation to define the conflict in the Sudan's Darfur region as genocide, saying to do so would jeopardize his nation's ability to help promote a permanent settlement there.

Washington, D.C., June 1, 2005 - South African President Thabo Mbeki today defended his government's hesitation to define the conflict in the Sudan's Darfur region as genocide, saying to do so would jeopardize his nation's ability to help promote a permanent settlement there.

Speaking to a small group of journalists, including VOA's Vincent Makori, Mbeki said the U.S. was able to label the Darfur tragedy genocide because its role in finding a solution is different than South Africa's.

"We have to work with the Sudanese government so that it becomes part of the solution," Mbeki said. "We have to work with the rebel movements in Darfur so that they become party to the solution...so that the outcome we get is a stable political settlement.

"In the end if you denounce the government of Sudan as genocidal, what next? Then don't you have to arrest the president? We are looking for the solution, and it does not lie in making radical statements, not for us as Africans."

Mbeki noted that talks between the Sudanese government and rebel movements will resume in Nigeria, and he said he hopes those negotiations will provide a political settlement for Darfur.

Regarding his visit with President Bush, Mbeki said he was looking for indications of which African issues might arise at the upcoming G-8 Summit in Scotland. He quoted Bush as agreeing that G-8 leaders should press for strategies that will spur real development in Africa.

When asked about the situation in Zimbabwe, Mbeki urged the ruling party and the opposition to focus on solving constitutional issues so that an electoral system includes an independent electoral commission.

Africa Journal, VOA's weekly news and information television program for African viewers, airs each Thursday from 2:00-3:00 PM (EDT). The show with President Mbeki will be available at: www.voanews.com/english/Africa/AfricaJournal.cfm.

The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts more than 1,000 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural rogramming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of more than 100 million people. Programs are produced in 44 languages, including English.

For more information, call the Office of Public Affairs at (202) 401-7000, or E-Mail publicaffairs@voa.gov.

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