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US, Britain Press UN Security Council To Engage On Zimbabwe Crisis

The United States and Britain pressed Monday for the United Nations Security Council to engage on the political and especially the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe, though diplomats said substantive action might have to wait until January when South Africa, which resisted even a non-binding declaration, will surrender its rotating seat.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the government of President Robert Mugabe was practicing the "denial of reality" as to the depth of the crisis. He said he hoped the Security Council will "continue to engage" the Zimbabwean question in the weeks ahead.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon briefed Security Council members behind closed doors, noting that neither the Harare government nor crisis mediator Thabo Mbeki, the former South African president, have welcomed a U.N. political role in the crisis.

"This clearly limits our ability to effectively help and find remedies to this crisis," Ban told council members.

Ban said the cholera epidemic which has claimed nearly 1,000 lives, is "only the most visible manifestation of a profound multi-sectoral crisis, encompassing food, agriculture, education, health, water, sanitation and HIV/AIDS" prevention and treatment efforts.

He said the Southern African Development Community, which is brokering the halting power-sharing process in Harare between President Mugabe's ZANU-PF and the two formations of the Movement for Democratic Change," needs (to produce) results fast."

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said earlier that Washington has been talking to Security Council members including South Africa hoping to “start a process that will bring an end to the tragedy that is unfolding in Zimbabwe.”

The Zimbabwean government said it will oppose the move with the help of its "friends," an apparent reference to China and Russia, which vetoed earlier attempts to put the Zimbabwe crisis on the Security Council agenda.

Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu told reporter Ntungamili Nkomo of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the crisis was a matter for discussion between his ZANU-PF party and the Movement for Democratic Change, without interference by the United Nations.

Political analyst and Mugabe opponent John Makumbe, a University of Zimbabwe professor, said the Security Council should adopt a tough position on Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile, Harare accused Botswana of providing military training to opposition members in a bid to overthrow President Mugabe. But the Movement for Democratic Change and officials in Botswana dismissed Harare’s accusations.

Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa told the state-controlled Herald newspaper that he had "compelling evidence" Gaborone had provided “human and material resources” for the alleged training of what the Herald described as “bandits.”

At a news conference called in Harare, the MDC formation led by Morgan Tsvangirai rejected the claim, which Secretary General Tendai Biti said was intended to set the stage for Harare declare a state of emergency, Studio 7 correspondent Thomas Chiripasi reported.

More news from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...