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Zimbabwe borders 'must close'

Zimbabwe's neighbours should close their borders in an attempt to bring down President Robert Mugabe, Botswana's Foreign Minister said yesterday.

In the strongest call yet for action from Africa, Phandu Skelemani said southern African nations had failed to move Mr Mugabe with mediation and their leaders should now impose sanctions.

"They should tell Mugabe to his face, 'Look, now you are on your own, we are switching off, we are closing your borders' and I don't think he would last. If no petrol went in for a week, he can't last," added Mr Skelemani.

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwean opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, said no progress was being made at a new round of power-sharing talks that started on Tuesday. Mr Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party's "intransigence to date is making that [agreement] appear increasingly unlikely", he said.

Botswana and Zambia have been lonely African voices against Mr Mugabe as Zimbabwe has become engulfed in an economic and political crisis in which agriculture, health and education services have collapsed and shortages of food, water, medicine, electricity and fuel have become routine. South Africa began taking a harder line last week, announcing it was withholding $3.3m in agricultural aid until Mr Mugabe formed a coalition government with Mr Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change. But it appears unlikely to heed Botswana's call to close its border, the lifeline for landlocked Zimbabwe, for fear of creating a wider humanitarian crisis.

An outbreak of cholera among hundreds of Zimbabweans has spread to Botswana and South Africa.