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US Calls Delay in Zimbabwe Vote Tally Suspicious


The United States said Friday that the continuing delay in the release of results from Zimbabwe's presidential elections only raises more suspicion about possible fraud. The State Department also expressed concern about political intimidation by forces loyal to President Robert Mugabe. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

With nearly a week having elapsed since the presidential election and with no results announced, the United States is accusing the country's electoral commission of failing Zimbabwe's people and leaving a strong presumption of fraud.

Briefing reporters, State Department Deputy Spokesman Tom Casey said every minute that passes without official results gives all those concerned more reason to suspect that the delay is not for legitimate purposes, but to leave the door open to abuse and chicanery.

"The Zimbabwean electoral commission has continued to fail in its duties, and fail the Zimbabwean people by not immediately providing the results of the presidential vote," he said. "The longer they delay in this process, the more suspicious it becomes and, I think the greater difficulty people may find in being able to accept the credibility of those results."

Informal tallies by the opposition Movement for Democratic change and non-government groups have shown MDC candidate Morgan Tsvangerai leading President Mugabe in the three-way presidential race, perhaps with the outright majority needed to avoid a run-off.

Spokesman Casey said it is curious that Mugabe supporters on Friday were talking about preparations for a run-off election in the absence of any official results from last Saturday's first round.

He also expressed concern over the fact that veterans of Zimbabwe's 1980's independence war, who violently attacked opposition members in the past, were mobilized for pro-Mugabe demonstrations:

"Certainly we respect the right of all parties to be able to peacefully, and I emphasize peacefully, express their views," he added. "But there should be no place, either in Zimbabwe's political system, or anyplace else, for acts of intimidation or of violence."

Earlier Friday, a spokesman for President Bush in Bucharest said U.S. officials were troubled by the arrests Thursday of two journalists in Harare, including New York Times reporter Barry Bearak.

State Department spokesman Casey said four Americans including Bearak were taken into custody, though he said he was barred by privacy rules from identifying the others.

He said U.S. diplomats were given consular access to all four and that two were released and left the country Friday, though reporter Bearak was still being held.

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