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World Leaders Rebuke Zimbabwe

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Outraged at the turmoil in Zimbabwe, the U.N. Security Council declared that a fair presidential vote is impossible because of the "campaign of violence" waged by President Robert Mugabe's government. Video by AP

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Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, June 24, 2008

HARARE, Zimbabwe, June 23 -- Heavily armed police officers raided the headquarters of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change party on Monday, dragging away about 60 people -- including children -- on a day when world leaders condemned violence by the Zimbabwean government in increasingly strong terms.

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As Tsvangirai took refuge in the Dutch Embassy here, the U.N. Security Council unanimously agreed in New York that the violence and restrictions on Tsvangirai's party "have made it impossible for a free and fair election to take place" on Friday.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on the government of President Robert Mugabe to postpone the scheduled runoff election, saying the vote would lack "all legitimacy." But Zimbabwe's U.N. ambassador, Boniface Chidyausiku, dismissed the appeal, saying, "As far as the runoff is concerned, the election goes ahead."

Many of the 60 people who were shoved into Zimbabwean police vehicles had sought refuge at party headquarters after being beaten or forced to flee their homes in a campaign of coercion waged by Mugabe in advance of the runoff election.

The runoff was to have pitted Mugabe against Tsvangirai. But the opposition candidate quit the race Sunday, citing the wave of violence against his supporters. "We cannot stand there and watch people being killed for the sake of power," Tsvangirai said. The government said it would conduct the vote without him.

His withdrawal galvanized many international figures to echo his statements that a free election had become impossible. Many spoke out against Mugabe, who over 28 years has led this once-bountiful country into economic ruin.

The round of state-sponsored torture, beatings and killings began after Mugabe lost the first round of voting on March 29. Election officials deemed a runoff necessary because neither candidate received a majority of the votes.

The opposition says that 86 supporters have been killed, more than 10,000 injured and 200,000 forced from their homes.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Monday that the attacks have "reinforced that it's impossible for there to be a free, fair or peaceful" runoff vote.

"It is abundantly clear that Mugabe is determined to thwart the will of the people of Zimbabwe as so clearly expressed on March 29," Rice said in a statement. She added that Mugabe's government "cannot be considered legitimate in the absence of a runoff" and must be held accountable.

In Britain, Mark Malloch Brown, minister for Africa, said his government supported Tsvangirai's decision to end his challenge and would push for new sanctions against Mugabe. "Our objectives are to get in every forum possible a recognition that today President Mugabe no longer remains the proper rightful leader of the country," Malloch Brown told reporters.

In an interview with the BBC, Malloch Brown said that though Zimbabwe already faces various foreign sanctions, many more could be applied. "There's been no global effort to delegitimize the regime," he said. ". . . What Mugabe has done in recent weeks is largely unite the world against him."


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