Britain tells the rest of the world to deny Mugabe political legitimacy

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Indy Politics

Britain has pressed the UN Security Council to deny President Robert Mugabe international legitimacy and to condemn the further escalation of political violence in Zimbabwe orchestrated by his "criminal cabal".

Even South Africa, which has long resisted moves by the UN to put Zimbabwe formally on its agenda, agreed yesterday to the adoption of a formal statement on the crisis following the announcement by the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai that the violence had forced him to pull out of Friday's run-off election. Gordon Brown, in a Commons statement, said Mr Mugabe's government "is a regime that should not be recognised by anyone" after losing its parliamentary majority and the first round of the presidential elections. The US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, said: "The Mugabe regime cannot be considered legitimate in the absence of a run-off."

Last night, the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said the results would lack legitimacy. "I would strongly discourage the authorities from going ahead with the run-off on Friday," he said. "It will only deepen divisions within the country and produce a result that cannot be credible."

British diplomats pushed all day for the adoption of a formal statement by the Security Council after submitting a draft which reflected Mr Brown's remarks. It was received broad support from the US, France and Belgium, but required unanimity among all 15 members to be adopted.

Sources said that South Africa was ready late last night to support a version that couched the legitimacy issue in slightly less blunt terms. The final text said that "to be legitimate, any government of Zimbabwe must take account of all its citizens" and the results of the first round of elections on 28 March "must be respected".

In the absence of any concrete action expected at the UN, Britain pushed for the EU to step up existing sanctions against Mr Mugabe's regime. EU leaders expressed their readiness to expand the measures last Friday. But EU officials said that specific proposals would only become clear during the French presidency beginning next week.

Mr Tsvangirai urged the Security Council to act to stop the violence. He also urged the Southern Africa Development Community and the African Union, which are holding urgent consultations, to unite in finding a solution to the crisis.