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Britain Urges Commonweath to Pressure Mugabe to Stop Attacks - 2001-12-20

Britain is calling on the Commonwealth to take more action against Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe for his attacks on white farmers and political opponents.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw wants to apply more pressure on President Mugabe to end political violence in Zimbabwe.

Mr. Straw spoke on British radio Thursday ahead of a special meeting on Zimbabwe of eight Commonwealth ministers in London.

"I think what President Mugabe has to understand - beyond and above his continuing rantings about all this being a British imposed plot - is that the international community is now watching and carefully monitoring what is going on," he said.

Britain and Australia have called on the Commonwealth's watchdog group on democracy to take the first step toward suspending Zimbabwe from the 54-nation organization.

The London-based human rights group, Amnesty International, is urging the Commonwealth to take a tough line on Zimbabwe.

The group accuses the Mugabe government of killings, torture, assaults and arbitrary arrests against opponents. It says the situation could become worse in the run-up to presidential elections in March.

As world attention turns toward Zimbabwe, Mr. Mugabe is continuing a four-day visit to Libya. The Libyan leader, Muammar Gadhafi, said he supports Mr. Mugabe's program to confiscate white-owned farms and hand them over to poor black families.

The United States and the European Union are considering sanctions against Zimbabwe because of the land reform program and the violence stemming from it.