Security Council takes up Zimbabwe vote

France’s United Nations ambassador called on Zimbabwe authorities on Tuesday to publish and accept the results of elections there as the Security Council met for its first session on the Zimbabwe crisis.

Saying the Zimbabwe situation was developing “not in a good direction,” ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert said, “The people of Zimbabwe have expressed themselves ... We think at least the government of President [Robert] Mugabe should recognise that by publishing the result of the election and accepting the result of the election.”

A presidential election was held on March 29 in the economically crippled country but no result has so far been announced. Zimbabwe’s state radio said on Tuesday verification of the results would start on Thursday.

The wait for the result has led to a tense stand-off and drawn accusation from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) that Mugabe, who has been in power for 28 years, is trying to rig the result.
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai says he won a majority.

Lynn Pascoe, UN undersecretary general for political affairs, was to brief the Security Council on the situation.

Ripert told reporters before the meeting he did not expect a “written outcome” from it but that the fact the meeting was held at all would send a signal to Zimbabwe’s authorities “that we are looking very carefully at what they are doing”.

Diplomats have said South Africa, which currently holds the Security Council presidency, was reluctant to have it take up the issue of Zimbabwe, which President Thabo Mbeki has said should be resolved through quiet diplomacy. Several council members successfully pressed last week for a briefing by the UN secretariat.

Ripert did not rule out that eventually the UN could become directly involved but said African mediation should come first.

“We think that the UN should be ready to support those efforts or to send its own mission or mediation if needed and if asked,” he said. “But for the moment we should support the African mediation.”

Mugabe has ‘failed’ the country

Meanhiwle, United States President George Bush said on Tuesday Mugabe has “failed” the country and should respect the will of the people who voted for a change in leadership.

“The will of the people needs to be respected in Zimbabwe, and it is clear that they voted for change as they should have because Mr Mugabe has failed the country,” Bush said at a news conference.

Mugabe “is intimidating the people there,” Bush said.

“It’s really incumbent on the nations in the neighbourhood to step up and lead and recognise that the will of the people must be respected,” Bush said.

‘We know who is the winner’

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said Tuesday there is a “serious humanitarian crisis” in Zimbabwe and urged the government to immediately release results of the presidential elections.

“The humanitarian situation is very worrisome. The Zimbabwe government has not released presidential results after four weeks. We know who is the winner. The authorities and President [Mugabe] should release the results immediately,” he said.

“Because of the increasing violence and the number of displaced people fleeing their homes to other places, there is a serious humanitarian crisis,” added Ban during a forum in Geneva.

Ban said he has been discussing Zimbabwe with African leaders. He has also met Tsvangirai, who gave what Ban described as a “very worrisome” briefing.

“Therefore, taking this opportunity, I urge the authorities of Zimbabwe to release the election results,” he said, adding that he will continue to address the issue in close cooperation with leaders in the region.

Earlier, UN experts expressed grave concern about “organised and coordinated” attacks, including torture, against the opposition in Zimbabwe following the elections.

Experts said in a joint statement that since the elections, they had received reliable information that people or groups suspected of having supported the opposition party had been subjected to abuses.

“Acts of intimidation, violence and torture are occurring as a form of retribution against, or victimisation” of people or groups suspected to have backed the MDC, they added. - Reuters, AFP

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