Annan sets tough conditions for Zimbabwe visit

JOHANNESBURG - The United Nations (UN) says secretary general Kofi Annan will only visit Zimbabwe after the government stops its controversial eviction campaign, guarantees access to those in need and resumes political dialogue with the opposition.

At a press briefing in New York yesterday, Annan's spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said while the UN secretary general had agreed in principle to visit Zimbabwe, a number of factors needed to be in place before the visit.

"Regardless of the date of an eventual visit by the Secretary-General, it's clear that a number of things need to happen," Dujarric said.

"One of them is that the evictions must cease and that humanitarian access, humanitarian aid must be provided to the people in need.

"There would need to be a start of a political process, such as a political dialogue between the government and other stakeholders in Zimbabwe," he said.

The UN last week issued a damning report on the evictions by the Zimbabwe government saying close to 700 000 people had been rendered homeless in the controversial campaign. A further 2.4 million people had also been affected by the campaign.

But the Harare authorities quickly dismissed the report alleging bias on the part of the UN envoy who they said was under tremendous pressure from former colonial power Britain to issue a negative report.

Mugabe earlier this week invited Annan to "come and see for himself" the clean-up operation. - ZimOnline