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British Minister: Mugabe Trying to Steal Zimbabwe Election

A British government minister says if the upcoming election in Zimbabwe were free and fair, the opposition would win. Mark Malloch Brown added that the world would not allow President Mugabe to get away with stealing the election. Tendai Maphosa has more in this report for VOA from London.

Foreign Office Minister Mark Malloch Brown is the latest to add his voice to the growing disapproval of President Robert Mugabe's campaign for the presidential election set for June 27. He spoke on local radio.

"I suspect that from the fact that there was a 55 percent anti-Mugabe vote in the first round, and everything he has done since has only outraged and offended his own people and his African neighbors - that in that number's increase - say just moderately by another 10 percent, that means that the opposition would have two-to-one lead in the popular vote," he said.

Malloch Brown referred to the Zimbabwean government's stopping local election officers from deploying, limiting the number of international observers, stopping the opposition advertising on state media and arresting opposition leaders as evidence Mr. Mugabe wants to steal the election.

"He obviously wants to steal it, but he is going to have to do it so visibly and ostentatiously and outrageously I think the world will, I hope, not let him get away with it," he added.

African leaders, who had been reluctant to criticize Mr. Mugabe's government for alleged human rights abuses, have begun openly expressing concern about events in Zimbabwe. Reuters news agency quotes Tanzania Foreign Minister Bernard Membe as saying there is every sign the elections will never be free or fair.

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

The MDC says more than 60 of its supporters and activists have been murdered by supporters of Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party, so-called war veterans of Zimbabwe's war of independence and the security forces. A further 2,000, the opposition says, have received varying degrees of injuries, while 30,000 have been displaced.

Mr. Mugabe blames the opposition for the violence, but reports by various human rights groups all say the president is using violence to intimidate voters into backing him on June 27.