Summit on Zimbabwe crisis postponed

The 15-nation regional body announced the delay in a statement in Swaziland, which was to host the meeting between Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, leaders of the opposition MDC and representatives from South Africa and three other nations.

The summit was postponed after Morgan Tsvangirai, the head of the MDC, refused to attend, citing the Zimbabwe government’s failure to provide him with a new passport. Tsvangirai is unable to travel on his old passport because all the pages are full.

"(MDC) President Tsvangirai was supposed to attend, but due to some technical problems he could not attend," Swaziland King Mswati III told reporters in Mbabane. "That is why the meeting is being postponed."

The summit will move to Harare, said Mswati, who had offered to send a private jet to Zimbabwe earlier on Monday to fetch Tsvangirai. The MDC leader spurned the offer and demanded that he be issued a new passport before making the trip.

The diplomatic snag followed weeks of fruitless negotiations over the allocation of cabinet positions in a unity government, which was agreed between Mugabe, Tsvangirai and the leader of a breakaway MDC faction last month.

Tsvangirai, who would become prime minister under the deal, has accused Mugabe’s ZANU-PF of trying to grab the most important ministries and relogating the MDC to the role of junior partner in the government.

The talks, which are taking place under SADC mediation, are seen as critical to any effort to solve Zimbabwe’s deep economic crisis. The country’s inflation rate has hit 231 million percent and it suffers widespread shortages of food, fuel and currency.