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Britain Says Zimbabwe's President Can Expect More Pressure


Britain says Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe can expect more pressure from the international community due to the deteriorating situation in his country before Friday's presidential runoff vote. A senior official in London also says Britain supports Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai's decision to withdraw from the election. Tendai Maphosa has more for VOA from London.

Foreign Office Minister Mark Malloch Brown told reporters it would have been preferable for Movement for Democratic Change candidate Morgan Tsvangirai to contest Friday's runoff vote. But, Malloch Brown said his withdrawal is understandable.

"We completely understand and support the decision of the MDC and Morgan Tsvangirai to pull out, because clearly the conditions for the elections to proceed had become impossible," he said.

Malloch Brown says the violent blocking of an opposition rally, which Mr. Tsvangirai was supposed to address Sunday, could have been the tipping point. He went on to express deep regret that the people of Zimbabwe are being denied an opportunity to have their voices heard on June 27.

Mr. Tsvangirai won the most votes in the presidential election on March 29, but the Zimbabwe Election Commission said he did not gain an outright majority. The MDC also won the parliamentary elections and most local government elections.

Malloch Brown says Mr. Tsvangirai's withdrawal from the runoff election throws into question any claim to victory by President Mugabe.

"He has no claims under his own constitution for the presidency," Brown said. "The AU [African Union] has clear conditions about not accepting any more presidents non-democratically elected to hold their seats, SADC [Southern African Development Community] has its own clear principles about the conduct of elections; all of these have essentially been breached. We do not accept the status quo and we do not expect the international community to accept the status quo."

President Mugabe has consistently blamed the opposition for the violence and outside interference, especially from former colonial power, Britain. Both the opposition and Britain deny the charge.

But, says Malloch Brown, the events of the past six months show that situation in Zimbabwe can now be characterized as Mugabe against the international community.

To this end, he said, the situation is up for discussion by various organizations including the United Nations, the European Union, the G8 and the Africa Union.

"So, we expect out of all these different forums, action," said Brown. "Some of them, like the EU or the G8, it is appropriate for us to make proposals as to what that action should be. Others such as the U.N. and the AU it is important that we are very much part of the discussion."

Last week the European Union warned that unspecified additional measures would be taken against those responsible for the violent campaign in Zimbabwe. EU sanctions already include a travel ban on Mr. Mugabe and 130 members of his inner circle.