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US declares opposition is clear victor

Latest update : 2008-04-25

Jendayi Frazer, US Assistant Secretary of State (pictured), has stepped in to the debacle surrounding the March 29 election results in Zimbabwe, stating that opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai is the clear victor. (Report: Y. Jamali)

The United States called time on Robert Mugabe's 28 years as leader of Zimbabwe on Thursday, saying he had clearly lost an election last month and his opponent should now head a new government.
After talks with officials in neighbouring South Africa, US Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer said the people of Zimbabwe had voted for a change on March 29 even though results have still to be announced.
"According to what we know, Morgan (Tsvangirai) won in the first round and there should be a change," Frazer told reporters in Pretoria, citing results given by the independent Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN).
"The most credible results we have today are a clear victory for Morgan Tsvangirai in the first round and maybe a total victory," said Frazer, who was due to hold talks with Tsvangirai later on Thursday.
Frazer suggested that there should be no second round in the presidential vote, saying: "We feel that the political space in Zimbabwe has closed and so that would make it very difficult for any notion of a run-off."
Asked about the political future for 84-year-old Mugabe, a former guerrilla leader, Frazer said: "Normally when you contest for president, you're finished if you lose. That's how democracies work."
Independent data shows Tsvangirai beating Mugabe but failing to win an outright victory. Tsvangirai says he won more than 50 percent of the vote, but Mugabe's supporters have said a second round is inevitable.
Frazer also responded coolly to the idea of a national unity government to end the political deadlock between Mugabe's ruling party and the opposition, saying there was no way the president should stay in office.
"You don't need a government of national unity, you simply have to respect the result of the election," she said.
"There may need to be a political solution, a negotiated solution.... but any government should be led by Morgan Tsvangirai."
While the United States has heavily criticised the delay in releasing the results of the polls, Frazer's comments mark the first time the Bush administration has declared that Tsvangirai was the winner.
While Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party was initially declared the winner of simultaneous parliamentary elections, that result is also now up in the air as officials stage a partial recount.
Frazer was to meet Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and Zambian President Levy Patrick Mwanawasa, head of the Southern African Development Community, a key regional group, to up the pressure on Zimbabwe.
Frazer also said that Washington was "increasingly concerned about the violence and human rights abuses taking place in Zimbabwe after the elections."
"This has created a climate of intimidation and violence.... We can't stand back and wait for this to escalate further."
Speaking alongside Frazer, US Ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee said hospitals were overflowing with victims of state-sponsored violence and said there was a growing number of refugees in the country.
"The situation has changed from an electoral crisis to what is now a human rights crisis, a humanitarian crisis," McGee said.
He also said that the US would lift sanctions and disburse billions of dollars to Zimbabwe if a new government were to take power.
His comments came after an association of Zimbabwean doctors said its members had treated at least 323 patients who had been beaten and tortured since the elections.
Frazer's onslaught represented a further tightening of the diplomatic pressure on Mugabe after a controversial Chinese arms shipment which was headed for Zimbabwe turned back.
China had been under massive international pressure not to go through with the planned delivery of a massive cache of weapons from a ship, the An Yue Jiang, despite defending the purchase by the Mugabe regime.
After the United States publicly called for the ship to turn back, and lobbied neighbouring countries not to help it reach its final destination, the Chinese government announced that the mission was being abandoned.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called for an arms embargo on Zimbabwe. Frazer on Thursday said the United States would "seriously consider" the proposal and called on China to "act responsibly."

Date created : 2008-04-25