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Zimbabwe applies to rejoin Commonwealth

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Zimbabwe has applied to rejoin the Commonwealth - 15 years after they left the group.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said she was delighted to receive a letter from Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa, dated 15 May.

However, she added they would only return "when the conditions are right".

President Mnangagwa, who came to power in November after long-time leader Robert Mugabe was ousted, has said repeatedly he wants to rebuild international ties.

In a statement released on the Commonwealth's website, Baroness Scotland said:

I whole-heartedly echo the sentiments of heads of government who have said twice, in 2009 and subsequently in 2011, that they very much look forward to Zimbabwe’s return when the conditions are right.

Zimbabwe’s eventual return to the Commonwealth, following a successful membership application, would be a momentous occasion, given our shared rich history."

Zimbabwe withdrew from the 53 country-strong Commonwealth in 2003, having initially joined in 1980, after its membership was suspended amid reports of election rigging.

President Mugabe rejected previous attempts to bring the country back into the group.

The Commonwealth statement said the country would have to comply with "the fundamental values set out in the Commonwealth Charter, including democracy and rule of law plus protection of human rights such as freedom of expression" before being allowed to rejoin.

Commonwealth observers have been invited to attend this year's elections in Zimbabwe - a process which will now form part of the informal assessment which will be carried out as part of the application.

The other member countries will also be consulted, the statement added.

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