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US Blasts 'Completely Fraudulent' Zimbabwe Election

The United States Friday expressed deep disappointment that Zimbabwe's presidential runoff election went forward even though incumbent President Robert Mugabe was the only candidate. U.S. officials say they will pursue new bilateral and international action against the Mugabe government. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

U.S. diplomats were only able to observe voting in a few neighborhoods in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare. But State Department Deputy Spokesman Tom Casey said it is clear, even from that small sampling, that the election is being conducted in what he termed "a true climate of intimidation and fear."

He says the Mugabe government, whatever it may say about the election, will emerge from the "sham process" with no legitimacy in the world community.

The comments were some of the strongest to date from the Bush administration, which stepped up its criticism of the Harare government after opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai's departure from the race earlier this week amid a wave of government-inspired violence.

Spokesman Casey said the situation has generated international concern and disappointment even among longtime defenders of Mr. Mugabe in the southern African regional grouping SADC, and the African Union.

He said he hopes the AU, discussing the Zimbabwean situation in a weekend summit in Egypt, will push for a political solution to the crisis:

"We would hope they would continue to speak out in opposition to this completely fraudulent electoral process that is now under way, and put their weight behind international efforts to reach some kind of political solution," he said. "At this point, I am not prepared to tell them what specific measures they ought to take. But clearly we're looking for them to speak out and do what they think is appropriate, and take what steps they can to be able to put pressure on the regime to change its approach."

Echoing remarks by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at the G8 foreign ministers meeting in Japan, Casey said the United States will seek additional action in the U.N. Security Council beyond the president's statement from the council earlier this week condemning Zimbabwe election violence.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad completes his one-month term as rotating Security Council president next Monday. But Casey said the Bush administration does not see a need to push for further council action by Monday, saying world concern about Zimbabwe will not suddenly go away.

He also said there are "a lot of things" the United States can do bilaterally, beyond targeted U.S. sanctions against the Harare leadership already in place, to underline its displeasure over the latest events.