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Words in the News
Monday 08 December 2003
Zimbabwe leaves Commonwealth
Robert Mugabe Commonwealth countries at their meeting in Nigeria have been considering the consequences of Zimbabwe's decision to leave the organisation. Zimbabwe had been suspended from the Commonwealth because of concerns over democracy and human rights abuses. This report from Barnaby Mason:
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The dispute over Zimbabwe has dominated the summit. Many countries resent the amount of time it's taken up, but others stressed the vital importance of insisting on Commonwealth standards of democracy. The New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark, denied that Zimbabwe's withdrawal was a disaster for the Commonwealth. The disaster would have been to lift the suspension, she said; that would have shown the Commonwealth to be a joke.

On the other side of the argument, President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique said the Commonwealth decision had pushed Zimbabwe to leave and could have been avoided. He also complained that the organisation had acted undemocratically itself last March, when the suspension was left in place beyond the original twelve months. But Mr Chissano said he respected the views of others in the Commonwealth and didn't think the episode should bring about enmity between member states. In the end, the Southern Africa supporters of the Zimbabwe government under-estimated the opposition across the Commonwealth, including that of some other African states, to letting Zimbabwe back without progress on democracy and human rights.

Barnaby Mason, BBC diplomatic correspondent, Abuja
Listen Listen to the words
the dispute
the disagreement, the argument
was the most important subject
the summit
a summit is an official meeting between leaders of two or more governments
resent the amount of time it's taken up
are angry that so much time has been used on this subject
an organisation including the United Kingdom and countries that were part of the British Empire
to lift the suspension
to allow Zimbabwe back into the organisation
the episode
what happened at the summit
bring about enmity
cause bad feeling
under-estimated the opposition
didn’t realise the opposition was so strong
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