US urges election monitors for Zimbabwe runoff

Other News Materials 11 May 2008 07:07 (UTC +04:00)

The White House on Saturday urged provisions for election and human rights monitors during a runoff vote in the southern African country Zimbabwe, the dpa reported.

Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai ended over a week of suspense earlier Saturday when he declared he would take part in a runoff presidential election against 84-year-old President Robert Mugabe.

The country has been in a stalemate since the March 29 elections, with violent attacks against opponents to Mugabe that have killed several dozen.

Zimbabwe elections officials refused for weeks to release the outcome, then finally confirmed that Tsvangirai took 47.9 per cent of the vote to 43.2 per cent for 84-year-old Mugabe, who is seeking a sixth term in power.

The MDC has insisted that the vote count was manipulated to force the runoff. To gain office, a president needs more than 50 per cent of the vote.

The US has condemned the attacks by Mugabe supporters and at one point said Mugabe must "call off his dogs."

"We'd like to see election monitors come in, we'd like to see UN human rights monitors come in and ensure we have a safe electoral process in Zimbabwe," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said in Texas Saturday.

US President George W Bush was attending his daughter Jenna's wedding at his ranch in Crawford.

Johndroe said that opposition leaders and supporters "must be able to freely campaign free of violence."