Southern African leaders postpone meeting on Mozambique insurgency

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GABORONE (Reuters) - A Southern African leaders meeting that was scheduled for Thursday to address the Islamic State-linked insurgency in Mozambique has been postponed, Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi's office said on Wednesday.

The meeting was to receive a report from a team sent to Mozambique to assess the security situation and identify ways to support the country after IS-linked insurgents attacked the coastal town of Palma, displacing tens of thousands of people and stalling a $60 billion natural gas project.

The gas project by French oil major Total is meant to transform the economy of one of Africa's poorest countries.

The meeting was put off due to the unavailability of the Botswana and South African presidents, Masisi's office said.

Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique form a division of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) that wants to decide how to help Mozambique's northern Cabo Delgado province against Islamist militant attacks there.

Botswana is the current chair of the SADC division, which is tasked with promoting peace and security in the region.

Masisi went into self-quarantine on Tuesday after the detection of a case of COVID-19 among his staff, while South Africa's Cyril Ramaphosa is giving testimony to an inquiry into corruption under his predecessor Jacob Zuma.

The insurgency broke out in Mozambique's northeast in 2017 and the rebels have stepped up attacks in the past year.

A report by ratings agency S&P Global said militant attacks in Mozambique's Cabo Delgado province pose a "significant threat" to production facilities associated with one the biggest natural gas discoveries in the world.

(Reporting by Brian Benza; Editing by Promit Mukherjee and Mark Heinrich)