Russia and China Veto UN Sanctions of Darfur

July 12, 2008

Russia and China vetoed proposed sanctions on Zimbabwe’s leaders Friday, rejecting U.S. efforts to step up punitive measures against the authoritarian regime after a widely discredited presidential election.

Western powers mustered nine votes, the minimum needed to gain approval in the 15-nation council. But the resolution pushed by the Bush administration failed because of the action by two of the five veto-wielding permanent members.

The other three states with veto power – the U.S., Britain and France – argued that sanctions were needed to respond to the state-sanctioned violence and intimidation against opponents of President Robert Mugabe before and after Zimbabwe’s recent presidential election.

The proposal would have imposed an international travel ban and freeze on personal assets of Mugabe and 13 key officials.

Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said sanctions would have taken the U.N. beyond its mandate in trying to punish political disputes by “artificially elevating them to the level of a threat” to international peace and security.

Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya, whose nation is one of Zimbabwe’s major trading partners, also expressed fears of nation-tinkering and said Zimbabwe was should be left to conduct its own talks on how to resolve its political crisis.

“The development of the situation in Zimbabwe until now has not exceeded the context of domestic affairs,” Wang said. “It will unavoidably interfere with the negotiation process.”

South Africa, a Zimbabwe neighbor that holds one of the council’s non-permanent seats, led the opposition to the sanctions, arguing that Zimbabwe is not a threat to international peace.

Supporters of the resolution had counted Burkina Faso’s Ambassador Michel Kafando as the crucial swing vote. “As a means of exerting pressure, it could help,” he said of the sanctions resolution before the vote.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad expressed disappointment and said he found it “disturbing” that China joined with Russia.

In London, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband criticized the veto, saying that “it will appear incomprehensible to the people of Zimbabwe.”

The action put an end for now to efforts to apply more international pressure on Mugabe’s regime and force it to share power with the opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.

Both sides say they are willing to share power, if only during a transition to new elections, but differ on who should lead it. The long-ruling ZANU-PF party wants Mugabe at the head, something the opposition and Mugabe’s critics in the West have rejected.

Article by John Heilprin

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Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Bush Encourages World Toward Sanctions in Zimbabwe

July 7, 2008

President George W. Bush has urged the international community to punish the Zimbabwe government for suppressing its political opponents and using violence at the ballot box

“I care deeply about the people of Zimbabwe,” Bush told the G-8 annual summit in Hokkaido Toyako, Japan. “I am extremely disappointed in the elections, which I labeled a sham election.”

Incumbent Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe maintained power as the only candidate in last month’s election. His only challenger, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, withdrew from the race.

Tsvangirai said his Movement For Democratic Change party decided not to participate because of an ongoing campaign of political intimidation and violence at the hands of Mugabe supporters.

Tsvangirai won the most votes in the March 29 election, but not enough — according to official figures — to avoid a runoff.

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, also at the G-8 summit, said Monday that he believes “there is growing support for sanctions against the Mugabe regime” because very few countries recognize his government.

The British prime minister added that there is growing support for a U.N. envoy to be dispatched to “to make sure that the parties in Zimbabwe know that we’ve got to work for a transition so that there is a legitimate government, one that we can support, and one, when it does exist, we will want to help with the reconstruction (of Zimbabwe).”

Jakaya Kikwete, president of Tanzania and current head of the African Union, is one of seven African leaders at the summit. AP reported him as saying on the issue of Zimbabwe “that the only area that we may differ is on the way forward.

“We are saying no party can govern alone in Zimbabwe, and therefore the parties have to work together in a government and look at the future of their country together.”

Meanwhile UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband Monday called on South Africa to support a “way out” for neighboring Zimbabwe that includes a transitional, opposition-led government.

“I believe this is an agenda that is not a British agenda or a Western agenda but a humanitarian agenda around which the world can unite,” said Miliband in a speech at the University of South Africa in Pretoria.

The UK has been a harsh critic of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe who Miliband blamed for turning “the weapons of the state against his own people” in order to retain his grip on power.

Mugabe has been Zimbabwe’s only leader since independence in 1980, before which it was called Rhodesia and ruled by the UK. Britain is one of many countries that do not recognize Mugabe’s reelection.

Miliband has called for the current Mugabe government to be replaced by a transitional government to be led by Tsvangirai. He is visiting South Africa, a member of the U.N. Security Council which is expected to consider a sanctions resolution against Zimbabwe.

“The world community needs to unite at the U.N. this week not just to condemn violence but to initiate sanctions on the regime and send a human rights envoy to Zimbabwe,” Miliband said.

Story originally found @ CNN.com

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