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Zimbabwe NGOs Break Off Talks With Harare On Human Rights Panel

Under heavy pressure from civic groups, Zimbabwe's National Association for Non-Governmental Organizations on Tuesday pulled out of talks with the government and United Nations officials on the creation of a human rights commission.

A broad cross-section of Zimbabwean civil society groups held a meeting Monday in which more militant civil society organizations urged NANGO to sever talks with Harare on grounds that engagement was pointless so long as rights abuses continued.

The U.S. based watchdog organization Human Rights Watch issued a report Tuesday saying the Zimbabwean government has escalated violent repression of protests. The government dismissed the report as coming from a longstanding Western critic.

Opponents of engagement with the government of President Robert Mugabe included highly influential civic organizations including the National Constitutional Assembly, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition.

Such groups want to see a clear undertaking by Harare to cease all human rights violations before giving a green light to talks. The decision was a setback for the U.N. country team, which had encouraged engagement with the government. U.N. officials in Zimbabwe could not be reached for comment on the NANGO decision.

NANGO spokesman Fambai Ngirande told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that his organization has set conditions for talks to resume.

More reports From VOA's Studio Seven For Zimbabwe...