by Chris Otton 1 hour, 41 minutes ago LUSAKA (AFP) - A summit of southern African leaders called to discuss Zimbabwe's post-election crisis opened Saturday with a plea from its chairman not to ignore their neighbour's plight. With no result declared two weeks after Zimbabwe's presidential election, Zambia's President Levy Mwanawasa told the emergency summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) that doing nothing was not an option. "SADC cannot stand by and do nothing when one of its members is experiencing political and economic pain. It would be wrong to turn a blind eye," he said, adding the summit was, however, "not intended to put President (Robert) Mugabe in the dock." Mugabe -- accused by the opposition of holding back the result of the March 29 election and of leading a campaign of intimidation -- turned down an invitation to attend the summit. Zimbabwe's opposition leader and self-proclaimed presidential victor Morgan Tsvangirai was, however, seated in the front row and could be seen smiling broadly amid a gaggle of photographers during Mwanawasa's opening address. But is hopes that leaders might issue a hard-hitting statement and even put pressure on Mugabe to stand down were dealt a blow in the hours before the summit when South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki stopped over in Harare en route to Lusaka. After his first face-to-face talks with Mugabe since the elections, Mbeki ignored pleas for outside pressure to be levied upon the veteran Zimbabwean leader and demanded that things be allowed to run their course. "There is no crisis in Zimbabwe," he told journalists. "The body authorised to release the results is the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, let's wait for them to announce the results." Mbeki, who was the chief mediator between Zimbabwe's governing ZANU-PF party and Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change in the build-up to the election, has come under fire for his policy of "quiet diplomacy". Mugabe, alongside him, made no mention of the election, but denied he was snubbing the summit, saying, "We are very good friends and very good brothers. Sometimes you attend, sometimes you have other things holding you back." The head of Mugabe's four-minister delegation in Lusaka had earlier dismissed the summit as unnecessary and angrily denounced the invitation granted to Tsvangirai. "There is no need to regionalise the Zimbabwean crisis," Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa told AFP. "Inviting an opposition leader to a heads of state meeting is unheard of. We will not accept Tsvangirai to be part of this meeting." Zambian Foreign Minister Kabinga Bande played down Tsvangirai's presence, saying he had not been "invited to attend the summit per se" and was only there in case SADC wanted to hear his side of the story. Tsvangirai did not join SADC leaders and delegations when they went into a closed-door meeting after Mwanawasa's opening address. A statement from the regional leaders was expected at the end of their discussions later Saturday. Southern African leaders have been heavily criticised over their traditional reluctance to speak out against Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe for 28 years and is the oldest leader in the region. Nevertheless many in SADC are fed up with the economic mess on their doorstep with inflation in Zimbabwe now well into six figures, unemployment at over 80 percent and average life expectancy down to 36 years of age. Some three million Zimbabweans have left their homeland to find work or food, mostly to its giant neighbour South Africa. Mugabe's ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) says neither the 84-year-old incumbent nor Tsvangirai won a clear victory in the election and insists the battle must go to a second round. But the MDC accuses Mugabe of launching a campaign of intimidation and has ruled out Tsvangirai's participation in what it says would be an undemocratic second ballot. "The military has basically taken over," MDC number two Tendai Biti, who is accompanying Tsvangirai in Lusaka, told journalists. "There is a constitutional coup d'etat that has taken place there and that's why this meeting is very critical," he said, calling on SADC to "speak out clearly and decisively against his dictatorship and the status quo." The opposition has called for a general strike to be launched from Tuesday, the day after a court is due to rule on an MDC bid to force the electoral commission to publish the presidential election result. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Prime Minister Gordon Brown of former colonial power Britain, Mugabe's biggest bete noire, were among those who called for SADC to take a firm stand. Hivi huyu Mbeki ana wazimu?