Kikwete to meet with UN boss over alternative solution By PAUL REDFERN Special Correspondent THE EAST AFRICAN President Jakaya Kikwete is expected to hold detailed talks with the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon over the crisis in Zimbabwe next week. Tanzanias leader, who is also the AU chairman, is to be sounded out about the possibility of replacing South African President Thabo Mbeki as the key mediator on Zimbabwe. Mr Mbeki, who has been roundly criticised for his softly softly approach to President Robert Mugabe, is deeply distrusted by the opposition MDC in Zimbabwe and is viewed by many within the international community as unable to stand up to the veteran Southern Africa leader. Diplomats are suggesting that former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who mediated successfully in Kenyas post-December political crisis, former Mozambique president Joaquim Chissano or Ghanaian president John Kufour would be far more acceptable in terms of a neutral candidate. With criticism growing over President Mugabes role from within Africa and notably from leaders in Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania, a push to start to resolve the issue is expected to be made at next weeks G8 summit in Japan where a number of leading African statesmen will attend. The Times newspaper reported last week that the UN was considering a shortlist of leading African politicians to help negotiate a political settlement in Zimbabwe. It added that pressure was mounting in diplomatic circles for the key role of mediating an end to the crisis to be taken out of the hands of South Africas leader. The view in top-level diplomatic circles is that Mr Mugabe has frequently pulled the wool over the eyes of Mr Mbeki, and that he will have a harder time from a United Nations or an African Union-led team. The AU has already agreed a resolution calling on President Mugabe to negotiate with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who many believe was fraudulently defeated in the first round of voting in March. The move to replace Mr Mbeki comes alongside discussions to increase so-called smart sanctions on Zimbabwe aimed at the ruling elite and their families. These are expected to include a world-wide travel ban and a freezing of any assets held abroad. These are expected to be pushed through at the UN Security Council over the next few days. Meanwhile, another report says that Western countries are prepared to backtrack on aid pledges they made to Africa in 2005 at the G8 summit because of the growing economic crisis. At the Gleneagles summit in 2005, G8 leaders pledged to increase development aid to Africa to $25 billion a year. But a draft communiqué obtained by the Financial Times in the UK, which is due to be issued at the July summit in Hokkaido, Japan, later this month shows leaders will commit to fulfilling our commitments on [development aid] made at Gleneagles but fails to cite the target of $25 billion annually by 2010.