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Annan: Humanitarian Situation in Zimbabwe 'Intolerable'

Former United Nations chief Kofi Annan says he will continue to assess a "deteriorating" humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe from outside the country, after Zimbabwean officials barred his entrance.

The former secretary-general told VOA that a food shortage, poor sanitation and an emerging cholera crisis have contributed to what he called an "intolerable" humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe. He said the urgency of the crisis demands immediate international action.

Mr. Annan had traveled to Zimbabwe with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and human rights campaigner Graca Machel to assess the needs of Zimbabweans. But the delegation, known as The Elders, said it canceled the visit Saturday after the government denied the group visas.

Zimbabwe's government says it only postponed the visit because the group had not properly consulted with government officials before the trip.

The state-run Sunday Mail newspaper quotes Foreign Minister Samuel Mumbengegwi as saying Mr. Annan misrepresented the facts about the trip. Mumbengegwi said he objects to the suggestion that there are people who care more about the welfare of Zimbabwe's people than the government.

Zimbabwe has said the visit by Mr. Annan and Mr. Carter is a "partisan mission." The government says the delegation is backing the opposition group, Movement for Democratic Change, which stripped President Robert Mugabe's (ZANU-PF) party of its parliamentary majority in March elections.

Mr. Annan's delegation met Saturday with main Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in South Africa and held talks Sunday with Botswanan President Ian Khama.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.