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Poll: Mugabe Could Lose Zimbabwe Election - 2002-02-20

A new public opinion poll indicates Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe could lose next month's presidential election -- despite his crackdown on the opposition.

The poll by the Mass Public Opinion Institute found that nearly 20 percent of those surveyed support Morgan Tsvangirai of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. Only 11 percent said they would vote for Mr. Mugabe. In an indication of the rising tensions ahead of the March ninth and 10th election, 60 percent of those questioned refused to say who they would vote for.

The United States on Tuesday welcomed European Union sanctions on President Mugabe and his inner circle and said it is preparing its own travel sanctions against the Zimbabwean government. However, a final decision has not been made. The State Department also says it is considering financial sanctions -- depending upon the conduct of the presidential election.

The European Union withdrew its election observer team from Zimbabwe and imposed the targeted sanctions after the Harare government prevented the observers from doing their job.

The international human rights watchdog Amnesty International has warned that the E.U. recall will only encourage political oppression while endangering chances for a free and fair election.

Amnesty International, along with several other human rights groups, also released a report Tuesday, saying the 16 politically motivated murders in Zimbabwe in January was the highest total in nearly two years.