Obama calls South Africa's president. Was it to talk Zimbabwe?

This morning's Times (London) reported that the Obama administration is planning a tougher stance against Zimbabwe's self-ordained president-for-all-time, Robert Mugabe. Then at the White House Daily Press Briefing today, we learned that Obama made a call to the president of South Africa, Kaglema Motlanthe.

Is Obama calling to talk Zimbabwe? Now would be good timing. Just today at a summit in South Africa, Mugabe and the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai look to have agreed to form their long-awaited unity government.

South Africa -- reciever of Zimbabwean refugees and primary economic partner -- is really the only country that can put enough pressure on Zimbabwe's Mugabe to make the deal work. So far, the signs haven't been promising. South Africa's former President Thabo Mbeki has muddled through moderating talks since September, favoring his fellow former-anticolonial comrade Mugabe.

Since Mbeki resigned as president and interim leader Motlanthe took over, the odds of South Africa putting on the pressure are even lower. South African elections are pending in just weeks time, and a split within the ruling party has raised the stakes for the first time in that country's history. As Human Rights Watch analyst Tiseke Kasambala recently told me, "there are domestic goings on in South Africa now that will likely take South Africa's eye off the ball."

None of the rumored Africa people from the new administration have returned e-mail messages about Obama-Zimbabwe policy. But my hope is that Mugabe's name came up in the phone call. I would bet more money on that than I would the Zimbabwean currency.

Photo: ALEXANDER JOE/AFP/Getty Images


Sego v. Sarko: Round 2

In a new book of interviews, former French Socialist leader and presidential candidate Segolene Royal doesn't exactly mince words about her rival Nicolas Sarkozy, describing his "lack of morality" and "bulimia for money":

Describing a meeting with Mr Sarkozy at the Elysee palace in the wake of the 2007 election she lost to him, Miss Royal said he came across like a puffed-up child.

"I found his behaviour pretty mediocre," she said. "There was no grandeur, no allure, no momentum, no sense of fair-play. His energy is impressive, but he really is a show-off. A little boy happy to be surrounded by his new toys. With his little sheriff's star and his plastic gun, his cowboy outfit. As if he had climbed up on the biggest horse in the merry-go-round, and plucked down the prize."

She claimed that Mr Sarkozy spent their meeting "badmouthing journalists, flashing his watch at me, telling me how, sure, he was here now, but he could just as well have been elsewhere making 'loads of cash'.

She added: "In fact he is much duller than people think.

This follows last week's revelation from Royal that she "inspired Obama, and his team copied us." Looks like France might have wound up with a "show-off" either way.

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