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Britain, US Urge Zimbabwe to Accept Election Monitors


British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and U.S. President George Bush have condemned the ongoing pre-election violence in Zimbabwe and urged the government in Harrare to accept international election monitors. Tendai Maphosa has more in this report from London.

The two leaders made their comments during a joint news conference in London. Prime Minister Gordon Brown described the government of incumbent Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe as increasingly desperate and criminal. Mr. Brown said he deplores the violence and arrests of opposition politicians, including Morgan Tsvangirai who is challenging Mr. Mugabe in the June 27 runoff presidential election.

Mr. Brown said everything should be done to make sure the poll reflects the will of the Zimbabwean people.

"Mugabe must not be allowed to steal the election that is now less than two weeks away, and that is why we call for Zimbabwe to accept a United Nations human rights envoy to visit Zimbabwe now, and to accept the international monitors from all parts of the world who are available to ensure that this is a free and fair election," he said.

Mr. Brown's strong words come amid growing reports of increased government-sponsored violence in Zimbabwe and massive intimidation and harassment of voters and opposition supporters.

President Bush said the U.S. government would support all efforts to bring about free and fair elections in Zimbabwe.

"The people of Zimbabwe have suffered under Mugabe's leadership and we will work with you to ensure that these good folks have free and fair elections to the best extent possible, which obviously Mr. Mugabe does not want to have," he said.

President Bush and Prime Minister Brown are among a growing number of voices expressing alarm over events in Zimbabwe. Last week, 40 prominent Africans, including former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, signed an open letter calling for free and fair elections.

Mr. Annan also gave a separate press briefing in London, calling for the Zimbabwean government to stop its intimidation campaign and allow the opposition to campaign freely.

"Whoever wins the elections, we hope the result will be announced promptly by the electoral commission, and that anyone who tries to come into power through fraudulent elections will have a price to pay," he said. "I think the people of Zimbabwe and the Africans will not accept it and he will not have legitimacy to rule, and the international community will not accept him either."

The June 27 poll follows the result of the March 29 election, in which opposition Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai won the most votes. But Zimbabwe election officials say he did not win the necessary majority to claim the presidency.

Mr. Mugabe recently threatened war to stop the opposition from coming to power. He describes the Movement for Democratic Change as traitors being used and sponsored by the British to recolonize Zimbabwe. The opposition party and Britain deny his charges.