UN Security Council discusses action on Zimbabwe

The UN Security Council discussed Monday holding President Robert Mugabe responsible for the worsening political and humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe and condemning him and his government for it, diplomats said, the dpa reported

said the 15-nation would consider the March 29 election results legitimate if the runoff ballot planned for Friday cannot take place because of violence against the opposition.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai won the first vote, but failed to achieve the required 50-per-cent majority vote, prompting a runoff election.

US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, who is serving as council president in June, and his counterpart from France, Jean-Maurice Ripert, said following a closed-door meeting of the council that a presidential statement expected to be issued Monday would say the violence in Zimbabwe would make it impossible for the runoff election to be free and fair.

The draft statement under discussion would say "until there is a clearly free and fair second round of presidential election, the only legitimate basis for a government of Zimbabwe is the outcome of the 29 March, 2008, election."

The draft would condemn the violence "conducted" by the government and sections of Zimbabwe's armed forces against political opponents, which have killed "scores of opposition activists and the beating and displacement of thousands of people, including many women and children."

The draft would condemn the government of Zimbabwe's actions, including political intimidation, suppression of the right of assembly, detention of political leaders and abuse of state- controlled media, which denied the opposition the chance to campaign freely.

It would call on Zimbabwean authorities to hold talks with envoys from the African Union and the UN "to find a peaceful way forward that allows a legitimate government to be formed that reflects the will of the Zimbabwean people."

It calls also for ending the campaign of violence and the release from detention of political leaders.

Both Khalilzad and Ripert said at least one council member opposed the issuance of the statement.

"The situation in Zimbabwe is not the result of an act of nature, like the natural disaster in Burma ( Myanmar)," Khalilzad said. "The government of Zimbabwe caused the problems, and in my view, we have to assign the blame and take action."

When Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar in early May, China strongly opposed the council's involvement in humanitarian assistance to that impoverished Southeast Asian nation. Western nations in the council invoked the UN responsibility to protect civilians, but China said that responsibility does not cover natural disasters.

Khalilzad and Ripert said one country also opposed the UN responsibility to protect the civilian population in the case of Zimbabwe's humanitarian situation, which they said is man-made. The diplomats did not name that country.

Ripert told reporters that closed-door discussion in the council Monday was tense.

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