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China, Russia Veto UN Zimbabwe Sanctions Resolution

China and Russia have vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution seeking sanctions against the government of Zimbabwe, its president and members of his inner circle. The vote on the U.S-drafted resolution comes after more than a week of diplomatic wrangling, which had the council divided. From United Nation's headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

The final vote was nine council members in favor, five against and one abstaining. But the two "no" votes of Russia and China -- both permanent members of the council that carry veto power -- defeated the resolution.

China's Ambassador Wang Guangya said the recent African Union summit clearly rejected the idea of imposing sanctions against Zimbabwe at this time, and its opinion must be respected. He went on to say that sanctions would hurt the fledgling negotiations that are going on between President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. "China has always maintained the best approach to solve a problem are negotiation and dialogue. Internationally to use, or threaten to use, sanctions lightly is not conducive to solving a problem," he said.

He added that the situation in Zimbabwe is not a threat to international peace and security and is therefore outside the mandate of the Security Council, an opinion echoed by Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin. "The council's application here of enforcement measures under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter has no foundation and is excessive. Moreover, this draft is nothing but the council's attempt to interfere in the internal affairs of states, which is contrary to the U.N. Charter," he said.

The United States drafted the resolution, which called for an arms embargo on Zimbabwe's government and travel and financial sanctions against President Mugabe and 13 of his allies, and Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad criticized his colleagues who defeated it.

"China and Russia have stood with Mugabe against the people of Zimbabwe. More than a majority of the Security Council members stood with the people of Zimbabwe by demanding that Mugabe put an immediate end to the violence and to start serious negotiations with the opposition," he said.

From its introduction last week, the 15-council members expressed mixed opinions on the draft and the outcome of Friday's vote was never certain.

South Africa, which is leading the regional mediation effort, expressed opposition to the resolution from the start and voted against it, saying time had to be given to those efforts to succeed.

Also opposed were Libya and Vietnam. Indonesia abstained. Burkina Faso said it was supporting the resolution, but only because of the clause imposing an arms embargo, saying it was designed to prevent a large-scale military conflict.

Zimbabwe's ambassador said the countries that voted against the resolution refused to be intimidated or follow the national interests of a few countries.

Several council members, including the United States, France and Britain, said they would continue to monitor the situation in Zimbabwe and would ask the U.N. secretary-general to appoint a special representative and to report back periodically to the council on the political and humanitarian situation in the country.