VARIOUS: Mugabe threatens to arrest opposition leaders as Bush and Brown demand free, fair elections
- Title: VARIOUS: Mugabe threatens to arrest opposition leaders as Bush and Brown demand free, fair elections
- Date: 17th June 2008
- Summary: (BN11) LUXEMBOURG (JUNE 16, 2008) (REUTERS) BRITISH FOREIGN MINISTER DAVID MILIBAND CHATTING WITH HIS DELEGATION CAMERAMAN FILMING (SOUNDBITE) (English) BRITISH FOREIGN MINISTER, DAVID MILIBAND, SAYING: "I think its important that Europe sends a very clear signal. First that it is watching the intimidation, the abuse even the killing that is going on in Zimbabwe with the greatest of concern. Secondly, it is important that the European Union sends a very clear message to those fighting for democracy in Zimbabwe that we support them. Third it give maximum support to the African Union and to the SADC (Southern African Development Community) in getting the election monitors into Zimbabwe. I think I am right in saying that there are now about 130 or 150 election monitors in Zimbabwe, that number needs to rise. And I think it is very important a clear signal goes from the European Union on that score as well. The situation in Zimbabwe is a terrible tragedy for the people of Zimbabwe but also for the rest of Southern Africa because the spill over effect of 3 or 4 million refugees are tangible right across that part of the continent and it is vital that there is Southern African leadership to address the issue" MILIBAND WALKING IN
- Reuters ID: LVAEIGZ2KNNP0L6AJT0NVKVUN4WW
- Duration: 00:01:12
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- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Story Text: Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe threatened on Monday (June 16) to arrest opposition leaders over election campaign violence for which his opponents blame ruling party supporters.
Branding Zimbabwe's government a "criminal regime", British Prime Minister Gordon Brown joined U.S. President George W. Bush in urging Mugabe to allow international monitors to ensure a free and fair presidential run-off election on June 27.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has been repeatedly detained during his campaign, but has faced no charges. His Movement for Democratic Change party says 66 people have been killed in the election violence by ruling ZANU-PF supporters.
Mugabe blames the opposition for the disturbances.
"Sooner or rather than later we are going to accuse the party and the party leadership of being vicariously liable and responsible for those crimes of violence, because there is now a pattern readable across the country and that has to stop, we want to go into the election exercise peacefully," Mugabe told a rally of supporters in Kadoma.
Mugabe is battling to keep his 28-year hold on power in a country suffering economic collapse. Tsvangirai won the first poll in March but without enough votes for an outright victory, official results show.
At a joint news conference in London after talks with U.S. President George W. Bush, the British prime minister described Zimbabwe's government as an "increasingly desperate and criminal regime" and accused it of orchestrating the violence.
"Mugabe must not be allowed to steal the election that is now less than two weeks away," Brown told reporters. "And that is why we call for Zimbabwe to accept a United Nations human rights envoy to visit Zimbabwe now and to accept the international monitors from all parts of the world who are available to ensure that this is a free and fair election."
"The people of Zimbabwe have suffered under the Mugabe leadership and we will work with you to ensure those good folks have free and fair elections to the best extent possible, which obviously Mr. Mugabe does not want to have," Bush said in support of Britain's stand against the Zimbabwean leader.
British Foreign Minister David Miliband urged his EU counterparts to send a clear message that it would not tolerate such intimidation.
Speaking as he arrived for an EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg, Miliband also called for more election monitors in the Southern African nation.
"The situation in Zimbabwe is a terrible tragedy for the people of Zimbabwe but also for the rest of Southern Africa because the spill over effect of 3 or 4 million refugees are tangible right across that part of the continent and it is vital that there is Southern African leadership to address the issue," Miliband said.
Former colonial power Britain has long been critical of Mugabe but has increased the harshness of its language in recent days.
Observers from Western countries were barred from the first round ballot on March 29 and are not being allowed in for the run-off. The African Union and Southern African Development Community will send teams.
Mugabe, 84, has held power since independence from Britain in 1980. His ZANU-PF lost control of parliament in the March 29 election, but the president has the greatest say in running the country.
Critics say the economy has been ruined by Mugabe's policies, such as seizing white-owned farms to give to landless blacks. He says Western sanctions are responsible.
Zimbabwe's once prosperous economy has collapsed, with official inflation running at 165,000 percent, unemployment at around 80 percent and food and fuel in short supply. Millions of Zimbabweans have sought work abroad, most heading to South Africa, where their presence has stoked social tensions.
Zimbabwe ordered aid agencies to stop work on June 4, accusing them of working against his ZANU-PF party.
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