Sun, Apr 17, 2005 - Page 6 News List

S Africa's Mbeki brokers Ivory Coast election deal

AP , CAPE TOWN

South African officials hailed another victory for their quiet diplomacy Friday, voicing confidence that a proposal by President Thabo Mbeki to allow a banned political leader to run for office in the Ivory Coast would be acceptable to all parties.

Mbeki, the African Union mediator, last week persuaded the Ivory Coast government and rebels to end hostilities, take steps to disarm their militias and prepare for elections.

Shunned by the rest of the world during the apartheid era, South Africa has emerged from isolation to become Africa's political powerhouse. Mbeki's policy of quiet diplomacy, which emphasizes dialogue and compromise, has gained him international respect and helped promote peace in countries like Sudan, Congo and Burundi.

"We are not scared of taking principled decisions," said Deputy Foreign Minister Essop Pahad.

In a letter made public Thursday Mbeki said that former Ivory Coast Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara should be eligible to stand in presidential elections despite a nationality clause that bars him because his mother's family comes from Burkino Faso.

"We believe it will be accepted by all the parties," Pasad said of the accord, voicing optimism that stability would return to the Ivory Coast, the world's biggest cocoa producer, which is now effectively split in two.

"It is yet another success story," Pahad told parliament. "I want to believe that our work in the African continent has made us one of the most respected countries on the African continent and in general."

Douglas Gibson, the chief whip of the opposition Democratic Alliance, disagreed.

"It appears that far too often South Africa's foreign policy furthers the interests or the prejudices of the ruling party, not the people of South Africa," he said. "This leads to immeasurable damage to our international standing, when, for example, we defend the undemocratic and tyrannical behavior of [Zimbabwean] President [Robert] Mugabe," he said.

Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said South Africa would stick to its policy of gentle persuasion with its northern neighbor, pointing out that Mugabe's stand against white Zimbabweans has earned him "standing ovations from the masses of this country."

"If you look at Zimbabwe and Iraq you can't compare," she said. "You see which policy is working and which one is not."

"South Africa is not in the habit of telling people how to determine their future. It has a habit of helping its neighbors," she said.

The foreign minister vowed to step up efforts to ensure that Africa is better represented on the UN Security Council with at least two permanent seats and the right of veto.

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