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International Indignation Over Zimbabwe Political Crisis Grows

Britain's call for unified global action on Zimbabwe and Monday's U.N. Security Council condemnation of the government of President Robert Mugabe are part of a growing international outcry against the political crisis and violence in the southern African nation. However, as Tendai Maphosa reports from London, it is still not clear how the world intends to move beyond condemnation.

The unanimous U.N. Security Council statement against Mr. Mugabe and his government is viewed as a victory by Britain.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown's condemnation has become increasingly harsh. He spoke before the House of Commons on Monday.

"I think the whole world now sees the regime for what it is, the consensus in this House is that what has happened is intolerable, we want an immediate end to violence because the loss of life is unacceptable," he said.

There is a growing international consensus that something must be done to resolve the election-related violence in Zimbabwe.

The political crisis has been brewing for months, especially during the election campaign prior to the March 29 balloting. The opposition, Movement for Democratic Change, or MDC, won a majority in parliament, but its leader Morgan Tsvangirai could not score a decisive enough victory against incumbent Robert Mugabe in the presidential vote. A runoff is scheduled for Friday, but Tsvangirai has pulled out because of the violent repression of the opposition and its supporters.

The international community has already taken some action by imposing sanctions and a travel ban on Mr. Mugabe's inner circle. On Monday Prime Minister Brown vowed Britain would push for tightening and expanding those sanctions.

Speaking with VOA, former minister for Africa and prominent anti-apartheid activist Peter Hain said actions must follow words and the world must show Mr. Mugabe it means business.

"The international community must follow up its fine words from the United Nations Security Council and also from other world leaders and actually implement action and that action must involve stronger sanctions against Mugabe and his elite," he said. "And then for South Africa to pull the plug on the electricity supplies so that the regime then is without the power that they need to continue to enforce their tyranny."

Hain added that African leaders must also play their part by distancing themselves from Mr. Mugabe, whom he described as a dictator.

Some British news reports have gone a step further - mentioning a military option. A report in Monday's Times daily newspaper says the Ministry of Defense has two contingency plans for military action in Zimbabwe - one for a possible deployment of troops to resolve a humanitarian crisis, the other to provide military support if a national evacuation for British residents in the country is ordered. The report says, however, the Ministry insists that intervention is not "a plausible course".

In a separate report, the Times quotes Paddy Ashdown, the former European Union Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, as saying that military action would be justified. Speaking on British radio, Ashdown however took exception with the report.

"I said that I thought that the conditions for a military intervention were not in place, secondly I said I didn't think they would be in place until there was a clear genocide of the sort that happened in Rwanda taking place," he said. "Thirdly if any such intervention were in the future to happen it would be up to the African nations to lead that and Britain would not have a role in the process, except to provide moral support for something that is backed by the Security Council."

Military intervention is not a viable option, says Knox Chitiyo a Zimbabwean who heads the Africa Program at the Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies in London.

"There's no global agreement that a: there should be military intervention in Zimbabwe and b: if there was to be who would the lead actors be and certainly the African countries have not bought into of the military intervention," he said. "I think Africa is looking more at some sort of negotiation between the two parties."

Chitiyo says, however, that the situation in Zimbabwe is of grave concern and some cohesive plan to resolve the crisis is needed.

Expressions of concern about events in Zimbabwe came from an unlikely source on Tuesday. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman called on the relevant parties in Zimbabwe to resolve their problems through dialogue. China is a leading trading partner of Zimbabwe and has blocked previous attempts to censure the Mugabe government at the United Nations.

At the same time, the leader of South Africa's ruling party Jacob Zuma said Tuesday that the situation in Zimbabwe has gone out of control and the United Nations and the Southern African Development Community, or SADC, should do something about it.