Senior European officials said Monday that Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe must step down given the economic and humanitarian disaster enveloping the country, and EU officials added names to those on a list subject to European travel and financial sanctions.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, currently in the rotating EU chair, declared in Paris that Mr. Mugabe "must go," accusing him of taking the Zimbabwean people hostage.
European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana told reporters in Brussels the time has come to pressure Mr. Mugabe to leave power and give Zimbabweans a chance for progress.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband confirmed later that EU nations added the names of more Zimbabwean officials to an EU visa blacklist. He said the sanctions are intended to convince Zimbabwean officials that they must withdraw their support of Mr. Mugabe.
The new measures add the names of 11 midlevel officials to a sanctions blacklist first drawn up in 2002, among other effects barring them from traveling to the European Union.
Sarkozy’s call for Mr. Mugabe to step down was only the latest such demand.
On Sunday, Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga said an international force should enter the country to remove Mr. Mugabe if that is what it takes.
But former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said he did not think the African Union or the United Nations would undertake or improve the physical removal of President Mugabe from power.
However, Mr. Carter said the use of force might become necessary if Mr. Mugabe does not keep his engagements on sharing power with Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the dominant formation of the Movement for Democratic Change and prime minister-designate.
State-run media in Zimbabwe has accused the Western powers of using a cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe as an excuse for removing Mr. Mugabe.
Patrick Smith, editor of Africa Confidential newsletter, told reporter Ntungamili Nkomo of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Western pressure was likely to be counterproductive.
Meanwhile, Mr. Carter and his two colleagues of the group of eminent persons known as the Elders, former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and women’s rights campaigner Graça Machel, released a damning report saying that the Mugabe government cannot lead the country out of the current humanitarian crisis.
The three Elders were barred from Zimbabwe two weeks ago and had to conduct their assessment of the country's humanitarian crisis from Johannesburg.
The Elders' report says Annan, Carter and Machel found the situation “far beyond what we could have imagined” with four to five million Zimbabweans dependent on humanitarian food aid and a cholera epidemic unleashed by a collapsing infrastructure and health system.
From Harare, Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi said the government did not bar the elders but merely postponed the visit as they had not consulted beforehand.
Mr. Carter told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that he does not see removing Mr. Mugabe by force as the most preferable option, saying the Elders would prefer to press Mr. Mugabe to keep his engagements to share political power.
Speaking for Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party, Deputy Commissar Richard Ndlovu dismissed the European threat of new sanctions and the growing chorus for President Mugabe to step down, saying efforts to push the aging leader out of office will never succeed.
More news from VOA's Studio Seven for Zimbabwe...