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UN Chief, Security Council Condemn Zimbabwe Violence

The U.N. secretary-general and the Security Council are calling on Zimbabwe's government to stop its campaign of violence and intimidation, saying it has made it impossible for a free and fair run-off election to take place on Friday. From United Nation's headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on President Robert Mugabe to halt the violence and intimidation that has gripped the country in the wake of the contested March 29 presidential elections.

The secretary-general said during a news conference Monday that conditions do not exist for a free and fair vote, and urged the authorities to postpone this week's planned run-off election, saying it would only deepen divisions within the country.

"There has been too much violence; too much intimidation," he said. "A vote held in these conditions would lack all legitimacy."

On Sunday, President Mugabe's political rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, announced his withdrawal from the run-off vote, saying violence against his supporters made the poll impossible. He has since sought refuge at the Dutch embassy in Harare.

For the first time since the March 29 elections, the Security Council held consultations Monday on Zimbabwe. They stretched from the afternoon into the evening.

The council has been divided on whether to get involved in the post-election crisis. Most notably, Zimbabwe's two largest trade partners - South Africa and China - both council members - have resisted bringing the matter before the council.

But after much negotiation and redrafting of the language, the council unanimously agreed to a statement condemning the campaign of violence against the political opposition, saying it has "made it impossible for a free and fair election to take place on June 27." The council went on to note the results of the original vote on March 29 - in which Morgan Tsvangirai defeated President Mugabe - saying those results must be respected.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, who holds the rotating presidency of the council this month, said Zimbabwe's government has created both a political and humanitarian crisis.

"The combination of the humanitarian crisis and the political crisis, create circumstances that not only are a threat to the people of Zimbabwe, but also to regional peace and stability," he said. "And therefore, the Security Council will remain focused on this."

Zimbabwe's U.N. ambassador Boniface Chidyausiku attended the session and said afterwards that the Security Council cannot "micromanage" elections in any country. He said the run-off would take place Friday as planned, and dismissed reports of widespread violence and intimidation, saying international media reports are not reflective of the real situation on the ground.