A STORM is gathering over reports that French President Jacques Chirac could invite President Robert Mugabe to the forthcoming economic summit of the Group of Eight or a pre-conference gather
ing of developing countries in Evian.
Reports swirling in Western capitals yesterday indicate Chirac might want to invite Mugabe to the summit for talks on the sidelines over Zimbabwe’s political and economic crisis.
The G8 – the world’s leading economic powerhouses, the United States, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy, Canada and Russia – will hold its annual meeting in Evian on the banks of Lake Geneva on June 1-3.
African leaders promoting the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad), South African President Thabo Mbeki, Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, Bouteflika Abdelazzi of Algeria and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, are expected to attend the summit to drum up support for their continental renewal programme.
Mugabe may be invited to Evian because the Zimbabwe crisis, seen as a Nepad test case, could come up at the meeting. France is understood to attach considerable importance to Nepad.
If not invited to the G8 meeting, Mugabe could be allowed to attend Third World countries’ talks on development issues which Chirac has scheduled ahead of the main conference.
British Conservative Party foreign affairs spokesman, Michael Ancram has demanded assurances from the British government that Mugabe will not attend the G8 summit.
“As extraordinary as it would seem, it appears that the French are up to their old tricks again,” Ancram said. “Does this mean that Robert Mugabe will be invited to attend yet another international conference, once again on French soil?”
French ambassador to Zimbabwe Didier Ferrand yesterday said he was not aware of reports of Mugabe’s possible invitation to the G8 summit.