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World Leaders Rebuke Zimbabwe

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

In his New York statement, Secretary General Ban said that the wave of pre-election violence and the "understandable" withdrawal of the opposition candidate had undercut the prospects of a free and fair election. "There has been too much violence, too much intimidation. A vote held in these conditions would lack all legitimacy," Ban said.

Ban dismissed claims -- advanced most prominently by South Africa -- that the political turmoil in Zimbabwe was a domestic matter that should be resolved by the country's leaders and friendly neighbors. He said the government's effort to thwart fair elections imposes the "single greatest challenge" to stability in southern Africa.

Ban said his special envoy, Haile Menkerios, is prepared to talk with government and opposition leaders to resolve the political crisis. But the secretary general's tough remarks provided an opening for the United States and Britain to press the Security Council to take a more active role in confronting Mugabe.

At the United Nations, Britain circulated a draft Security Council statement condemning the Zimbabwe government's campaign of violence and calling for the recognition of results from Zimbabwe's first round of voting, which Mugabe narrowly lost, as "the only legitimate basis for a government in Zimbabwe."

The British draft urged Zimbabwe to allow U.N. and African Union envoys to take the lead in negotiating a governmental transition. But the final Security Council statement scrapped that language, which was opposed by council member South Africa.

South Africa's U.N. ambassador, Dumisani S. Kumalo, said that his government is engaged in "sensitive" political talks in Harare with the Mugabe government and members of the opposition. He said the British strategy would amount to an acknowledgment that the African mediation effort "has failed. That's not true."

Instead, Security Council members adopted a watered-down statement that condemned the government's role in denying the opposition the right to freely campaign. The 15-nation council called on Zimbabwe to allow the resumption of international relief operations and to cooperate with all efforts to negotiate a political pact allowing "a legitimate government to be formed that reflects the will of the people."

A number of controversial provisions in the original British proposal were dropped, including the one that would have recognized Tsvangirai as Zimbabwe's legitimate leader.

Foreign ministers of members of the Southern African Development Community, meanwhile, were meeting in Angola on Monday to discuss the crisis, which Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa, the SADC chairman, called a "tremendous embarrassment to all of us."

Zimbabwean opposition spokesman Nelson Chamisa said that nearly 1,000 people had sought temporary refuge at the party headquarters. At the time of the raid, he said, "the police arrested everyone who had remained in the building, including seriously injured political violence victims who could not run away, and drove them away in a bus. They looted MDC office furniture and computers containing party information."

Mugabe spokesman George Charamba confirmed the raid. "The police have a right to deal with criminals," he said. "The police are looking for suspects of political violence. What is wrong with that?"

The chairman of Zimbabwe's electoral commission acknowledged that political violence is occurring but said it was not "serious enough to discredit the election as not being free and fair."

"Some people can also describe an election held in Iraq as free and fair depending on how you evaluate," said the chairman, George Chiweshe. "We do not have a war in Zimbabwe . . . we will be able to hold a credible election on Friday."

Staff writers Debbi Wilgoren in Washington and Colum Lynch at the United Nations contributed to this report.

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