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US Calls for Stronger International Action on Zimbabwe

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called for stronger international action against political repression in Zimbabwe during a meeting at the U.N. Thursday. Zimbabwe has seen increasing violence and the intimidation of opponents of President Robert Mugabe ahead of next week's runoff presidential election. From United Nation's headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

Secretary Rice told an informal meeting of the 15 members of the Security Council, African nations and some non-governmental groups that the political instability and economic collapse created by the Zimbabwean government's actions are destabilizing the entire region. She accused the Mugabe government of orchestrating a "campaign of violence and harassment" designed to prevent the country's opposition from conducting its peaceful election campaign.

"Clearly, we have reached a point where broader, stronger international effort is needed," said Rice.

She urged the Security Council to take up the matter, and she welcomed the efforts so far of the African Union and the Southern African Development Community [SADC] as well as the 14 former African presidents and dignitaries who have called for Zimbabwean authorities to allow for a free and fair runoff election on June 27.

"We urge the SADC to increase its pressure on President Mugabe and his followers to stop this violence immediately, to permit the resumption of humanitarian activities, to allow the election to proceed freely and fairly and to peacefully abide by the results," said Rice.

President Mugabe has warned that he is prepared to go to war to prevent the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) candidate from governing if he succeeds in the runoff election.

Thursday's roundtable discussion was co-chaired by Burkina Faso's Foreign Minister Djibril Bassolé, who called on the international community to closely monitor the situation. He said wider involvement is necessary to prevent the violence from escalating and throwing the country into an even more serious humanitarian crisis that could reach beyond its borders.

Zimbabwe's opposition MDC party says about 70 of its supporters have been killed, and its leader and presidential candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, has been detained at least five times this month as he tried to campaign for next Friday's vote.

Secretary Rice said the mood among countries attending the meeting was one of "extraordinary concern" and a desire to have President Mugabe hear that there is great international concern about what he is doing to his country.

The Security Council is expected to have a formal briefing on Zimbabwe next week.