Western officials condemned China and Russia for vetoing a U.N. Security Council resolution that would have imposed sanctions against Zimbabwe.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad, said China and Russia stood with President Robert Mugabe and "against the people of Zimbabwe."

Britain's foreign secretary, David Miliband, called the veto "incomprehensible."

The U.S.-sponsored resolution called for an arms embargo on Zimbabwe and financial and travel restrictions against Mr. Mugabe and 13 others for violence leading up to a widely-condemned presidential vote last month.

Zimbabwe praised the veto as a victory over international racism and meddling.

Russia defended its vote, saying the political crisis in Zimbabwe did not pose an international threat and so did not fall within the Security Council's mandate.

China said the sanctions would hurt ongoing talks between Zimbabwe's ruling and opposition parties.

President Mugabe's ruling party and the party of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai met Thursday and Friday to lay the groundwork for talks on ending Zimbabwe's political turmoil.
President Mugabe said he was re-elected in a one-candidate race after Mr. Tsvangirai withdrew days before the vote.  The opposition leader said he dropped out because more than 100 of his supporters had been killed in state-sponsored violence.

Tsvangirai is demanding an end to violence against his supporters, the release of political prisoners, and a mediator to be appointed alongside South African President Thabo Mbeki as conditions for negotiations.

South Africa, Libya and Vietnam also voted Friday against the U.S.-drafted sanctions against Zimbabwe.  Nine countries on the 15-member council voted for the resolution, including permanent council members Britain, France and the United States.  One nation, Indonesia, abstained.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.