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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Nations Divided on Zimbabwe

COOLUM, Australia -- Commonwealth leaders appeared Sunday to be inching toward compromise on when and how to suspend Zimbabwe if next weekend's presidential elections are ruled not free and fair.

Leaders of the 54-nation Commonwealth have been deeply divided over how to treat Zimbabwe.

Britain and Australia have lobbied hard for suspending Zimbabwe because of violence and intimidation by supporters of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in his re-election campaign.

But Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien said nothing will happen before the March 9-10 election.

Earlier, Tanzania's President Benjamin Mkapa demanded the Commonwealth wait until the election is over before acting.

Mugabe's campaign to prolong his authoritarian 22-year rule has been marked by intimidation of opposition parties by militants from his ruling party. Mugabe is not at the summit.

"You are assuming that if the government wins, the election isn't fair. That is ridiculous," said Mkapa. "Let's wait and see."

Zimbabwe Information Minister Jonathan Moyo said the push to suspend Zimbabwe was race-based.

"It's racism," he said. "They are doing this because they are unhappy with the redistribution of land that is taking place in Zimbabwe. They don't want to see social justice in Zimbabwe."