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Zimbabwe denies refusing Annan visa.

11/23/2008 8:17:07 AM

The Zimbabwean government has denied barring Kofi Annan, a former UN secretary-general, from entering the country.Annan, along with Jimmy Carter, a former US president, had been due to travel to Zimbabwe on Saturday on a humanitarian mission, but they were refused visas.

Graca Machel was also to be part of the delegation from the diplomatic group known as The Elders, a body set up by her husband Nelson Mandela in 2007 to tackle global problems.Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, Zimbabwe's foreign ministry spokesman, said the visit was simply postponed.

"The government of Zimbabwe has not barred Mr Annan and his team from coming to Zimbabwe," he said.'Postponement'"The postponement was necessary because Mr Annan had made no prior consultations with the government of Zimbabwe regarding both the timing and programme of his proposed visit, as is the normal practice."It is most unfortunate that the former secretary-general has, for reasons best known to himself, misrepresented the position of the government of Zimbabwe."Speaking at a news conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, Annan said: "We had to cancel our visit because the government made it very clear that it will not co-operate."

The Elders had hoped to assess the deteriorating economic situation in Zimbabwe and its effects on the population.

Christopher Mutsvangwa, a spokesperson for Zimbabwe's governing Zanu-PF, told Al Jazeera on Sunday that The Elders made no effort to speak to the Zimbabwean government in time to "make an arrangement" for the proposed visit."I don't know under what international convention they govern themselves. One needs to understand who they are and what they stand for and what they are up to," he said."Zimbabwe's political problems are now being dealt with under SADC [Southern African Development Community] with President [Thabo] Mbeki as the mediator. And he has ample authority to deal with them. "We do not know under whose auspices these guys are trying to come to Zimbabwe. We need to understand that."Mutsvangwa said that while Carter was welcome as he has "an impeccable standing in Zimbabwe", Annan did nothing to help Zimbabwe's cause. "We do have some problems with Kofi Annan. He had ample authority to deal with the Zimbabwe situation, and was invited to come to Zimbabwe but he never did for his own reasons," he said."He never condemned the illegal sanctions on Zimbabwe. And he left the UN without ever having been on record for criticising the sanctions. He has been completely silent on the plight that Zimbabwe finds itself in today. He is shedding crocodile tears."'Food shortages'Annan said on The Elders' website: "Food shortages, a lack of seed and fertiliser for planting and the breakdown in health services are all having a serious effect on the people.

"We understand that the situation requires an urgent response and that delays will only prolong the people's suffering."

On Friday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that nearly 300 people have recently died from a cholera outbreak.

Fadela Chaib, a WHO spokesperson, said 6,072 cases had been reported between the start of August and November 18, with a rise in the number of reported cases in the past two weeks.

Doctors and medical staff had protested in Harare, the capital, earlier in the week, saying the healthcare system is suffering from severe shortages. 2003 - 2008

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Date:Nov 23, 2008
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