U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee says government-inspired violence against opposition supporters continues unabated despite U.N. Security Council condemnation of the Robert Mugabe government. McGee, who spoke to U.S. reporters in a conference call, is urging Southern African countries to take a stronger stand against political repression there. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.
Ambassador McGee, who has taken a high public profile in the election crisis, welcomed Monday's U.N. Security Council statement which he said properly blames the Mugabe government for the violence against Morgan Tsvangirai's opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
But he said that given the fact that landlocked Zimbabwe is so economically and politically dependent on its neighbors, a similarly firm statement from the Southern African regional grouping SADC might be more effective in getting the Harare government to change course.
"Leaders in the SADC region need to come out with a clear statement, just like we've had from the United Nations, that this is an illegitimate regime that's conducting an illegitimate election. Mr. Tsvangirai has asked to make this election null and void and we agree that that's probably the best course," he said.
The U.S. envoy said despite the call from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for an election postponement, the ruling ZANU-PF party remains in what he termed "full campaign mode" and apparently intends to force people to the polls Friday despite Mr. Tsvangirai's withdrawal.
"They're saying we want an election at all costs. We want to validate Mr. Mugabe's victory here. So the MDC's withdrawal was regrettable but it's very understandable. The people of the MDC were being massacred. And unfortunately as I said right at the beginning, the violence has not abated," added McGee.
McGee said he was told by the Dutch ambassador to Harare, who has provided Mr. Tsvangirai safe-haven, that a senior government official has given an assurance that the Dutch embassy will not be raided, and that the opposition leader will not be harmed.
The U.S. envoy said the Zimbabwean Foreign Ministry advised the Dutch ambassador that the opposition leader could leave the country at any time, though McGee questioned how that would be possible given that Tsvangirai's passport was confiscated last month.
In a talk with reporters here, State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said the United States is looking to meetings of SADC and African Union officials planned for the next few days to underscore that it cannot be "business as usual" with the Harare government if the runoff vote goes forward.
"If the election takes place and Mugabe stands up there and declares himself president again, on the basis of that, I think it's going to be uniformly rejected by the international community and I think there will be consequences for Zimbabwe as a whole, if it in effect has a government that no one views as having any credibility," said Casey.
Bush administration officials have spoken of the possibility of toughening the targeted U.S. sanctions already in place against Mr. Mugabe and close associates.
But they say no consideration is being given to withdrawing Ambassador McGee, because of his vital monitoring role.
McGee said in the conference call he is not afraid of being expelled, and that he and other U.S. diplomats will continue to try to circulate around the country and report on any abuses they observe.