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Britain Urges UN Action on Zimbabwe


Britain is asking the United Nations and African leaders to reprimand Zimbabwe for its human rights failures. Correspondent Peter Heinlein reports from U.N. headquarters in New York.

The British U.N. ambassador, Emyr Jones-Parry, urged the Security Council Wednesday to step up its criticism of Zimbabwe and its president, Robert Mugabe. "We believe that the United Nations and specifically this council should accelerate action on Zimbabwe to match that of the African Union and other regional organizations such as SADC," he said.

SADC, the Southern African Development Community, is discussing recent developments in Zimbabwe at a summit in Tanzania. Leaders of the 14-nation group called the meeting after Zimbabwean security forces detained and beat opposition leaders, including Movement for Democratic Change head Morgan Tsvangirai.

Ambassador Jones-Parry called on the regional grouping to take the lead in condemning the deteriorating conditions in Zimbabwe. "We hope that summit will send a strong message about the human rights and humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe where daily the news seems to get worse," he said.

The U.N. Security Council will hear a closed-door briefing on Zimbabwe Thursday at Britain's request. The briefing will be given by a senior U.N. humanitarian affairs official.

South Africa, which holds the Security Council presidency for March, reluctantly scheduled the briefing, even though South African diplomats disagree that Zimbabwe meets the Council's test as a threat to international peace and security.

South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma Wednesday sidestepped a question about events in Zimbabwe. After chairing a Security Council meeting devoted largely to issues of African peace and security, she told reporters she is awaiting the verdict of SADC.

"Today the double troika of SADC, the organ for politics and security and the SADC and South Africa are meeting in Tanzania. Tomorrow the whole of SADC is meeting precisely to look at that, so I don't think it's necessary for me to give you pre-emptive answers. Let's wait and see what they decide tomorrow how to go about finding a more sustainable solution," he said.

Southern African leaders have generally taken a less confrontational attitude toward the actions of Zimbabwe's President Mugabe. The 83-year old Zimbabwean leader has remained defiant in the face of western criticism, trading on his legacy in the region as a leader of Africa's anti-colonial struggle.

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