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US Urges Monitoring, Protection for Opposition Candidate Tsvangirai During Zimbabwe Runoff


The U.S. State Department's top African affairs expert said Monday Zimbabwe's presidential runoff must include "massive" international monitoring, and guarantees for the safety of opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer says the United States will work with other countries to try to achieve conditions necessary for a fair vote. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

There is little optimism here, given the flaws of the first round of voting March 29, that the still-to-be scheduled runoff will meet international standards.

But Assistant Secretary Frazer says the United States intends to work with Zimbabwe's neighbors and international organizations to try to prod the government of President Robert Mugabe into creating conditions for a free and fair vote.

In a talk with reporters, Frazer said those conditions include an end to what she described as "state-sponsored violence" against the opposition, "massive" monitoring of the vote extending to the rural level, greater transparency, including international media access, as well as protection for Mr. Tsvangirai.

"Those are all conditions we would expect to be put in place prior to the runoff taking place, including conditions so that the leader of the opposition, the person who got the most votes in the first round is not threatened if he returns home to Zimbabwe. So some type of security and guarantees for Morgan Tsvangirai's safety certainly should be a necessary condition for holding a runoff," she said.

Mr. Tsvangirai, who has been away from Zimbabwe for a month, says he won the March 29th contest with Mr. Mugabe outright. But the country's electoral commission says that, while he finished first in the three-way race, he fell short of the majority needed to avoid a runoff.

Frazer said the United States is prepared work for acceptable runoff terms in Zimbabwe through the southern African regional grouping SADC, the African Union, the United Nations and neighbor countries including South Africa, whose President Thabo Mbeki has just held talks with Mr. Mugabe.

She said the United States had not yet heard from the South African leader on his mission but that she hoped he pressed his counterpart on terms for the runoff. Frazer expressed particular concern that Mr. Mugabe might press for a quick vote that would preclude adequate preparations:

"They haven't yet said when the runoff date would be. Certainly if they pull a surprise and they say that the runoff's in a week, it's very unlikely that you're going to have the number of monitors necessary for a free and fair runoff. But we won't know until we know what the date is," she said.

Frazer spoke at a press event announcing the renewal of a U.S. rewards program aimed at bringing to justice those responsible for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

The United States is offering rewards of up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest of 13 individuals indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, including fugitive businessman Felicien Kabuga.

Kabuga, accused of financing ethnic Hutu militiamen who carried out mass killings of members of the Rwanda's Tutsi minority and Hutu moderates, is believed to be hiding in Kenya.

The State Department said it is reviving the rewards program, dormant since 2006, because of deadlines the Rwanda tribunal faces to complete its work.

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