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Indefinite extension of Zimbabwe’s suspension

Abuja, Dec. 7 (Reuters): Commonwealth heads of state agreed today to extend indefinitely Zimbabwe’s suspension from the group and appointed a seven-nation panel to monitor political dialogue and human rights in the country, a Zambian source said.

The 54-strong group of mainly former British colonies suspended Zimbabwe early last year on the grounds that President Robert Mugabe rigged his re-election and persecuted his opponents.

The heads of state agreed to appoint a seven-nation committee headed by Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo to monitor developments in Zimbabwe.

A Commonwealth spokesperson said he could not confirm the agreement and said the heads of state were still in the closed-door meeting. The Zambian source said the special committee would not have to wait until the next Commonwealth heads of state meeting in two years to report progress in Zimbabwe. “The chairman in consultation with the six wise men can recommend Zimbabwe’s return before that,” he said.

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Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF party today said it wanted to leave the Commonwealth, shortly after the six-nation panel agreed to extend Zimbabwe’s exclusion from the Commonwealth.

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