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Archive for Sunday, June 29, 2008

Bush calls for more penalties to punish Zimbabwean leader

June 29, 2008

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— Zimbabwe came under threat of further sanctions on Saturday as President Bush said the U.S. was working on new ways to punish longtime leader Robert Mugabe and his allies following the widely denounced presidential runoff election.

Earlier Saturday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the U.S. plans to introduce a U.N. resolution as early as next week seeking tough measures against Zimbabwe.

"We will press for strong action by the United Nations, including an arms embargo on Zimbabwe and travel ban on regime officials," Bush said in a statement issued while he spent the weekend at Camp David presidential retreat.

The European Union said it would not rule out taking sanctions against "those responsible for the tragic events of recent months," according to an EU presidency statement.

Friday's runoff election was widely condemned by African and other world leaders. Mugabe was the only candidate and observers said the few Zimbabweans who went to the polls did so only out of fear.

According to human rights groups, at least 86 people died and some 200,000 were forced from their homes. Most of the violence was blamed on police, soldiers and Mugabe militants. There were reports of victims being beaten for hours and bodies mutilated. When the main targets could not be found, relatives - elderly parents, young siblings - were attacked.

"The international community has condemned the Mugabe regime's ruthless campaign of politically motivated violence and intimidation with a strong and unified voice that makes clear that yesterday's election was in no way free and fair," Bush said.

The U.S. already has financial and travel penalties in place against more than 170 citizens and entities with ties to Mugabe, White House spokesman Emily Lawrimore said. The Bush administration is considering punishing the government of Zimbabwe as well as further restricting the travel and financial activities of Mugabe supporters, she said.

In Zimbabwe, deputy chief election officer Utloile Silaigwana announced on state television that counting had finished in most wards and that the electoral commission was waiting for results from a few outstanding wards. Results would still need to be verified by the national command center before being released.

"From the information filtering in, it looks like a clear win for our president," Justice Minister and senior ZANU-PF member Patrick Chinamasa said.

An announcement of the result is expected before Mugabe leaves for Monday's African Union summit in Egypt.

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