Zimbabwe's opposition accused militias loyal to Robert Mugabe of stepping up deadly attacks against its followers Monday as the veteran leader faced more foreign criticism over his controversial re-election.
While US President George W. Bush again labelled the June 27 poll a "sham", the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said another 20 of its activists had been killed since the run-off, bringing the total number of dead since the first round of voting in March to 109.
With Britain's top diplomat accusing Mugabe of unleashing "a campaign of unchecked brutality against his own people," G8 leaders meeting in Japan also heaped scorn on the Zimbabwean president and discussed imposing new sanctions.
However one of Mugabe's top lieutenants in the ruling ZANU-PF party snapped back that the outside world had no role to play in the crisis and should "stop meddling" in Zimbabwe's affairs.
"ZANU-PF and state security agents have intensified violence on MDC supporters across the country since the holding of the sham run-off," the opposition party said in a statement.
As well as the 20 activists known to have died since last month's one-man poll, thousands more had been severely assaulted, it added.
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who beat Mugabe into second place in the first round of voting, boycotted the run-off after scores of his supporters were killed. He said last week that he would not take part in negotiations with Mugabe's camp until the violence was halted.
With Mugabe insisting last Friday that there can be no dialogue until the MDC acknowledges his re-election as president, the prospects of a breakthrough looked dim despite the claims of ZANU-PF's chief negotiator Patrick Chinamasa.
"We are confident that if we are left to discuss this matter as Zimbabweans, we will find a solution sooner rather than later," he told state media.
But Chinamasa also warned Mugabe's Western critics they were harming rather helping the prospects of progress towards a political solution.
"We appeal to foreigners and external forces to leave the resolution of the Zimbabwe situation to Zimbabweans alone," Justice Minister Chinamasa told the state-run Herald newspaper.
"Britain, the US and the EU, in particular, should stop meddling in our affairs."
Bush however renewed his criticism of 84-year-old Mugabe -- who has led the former British colony since independence in 1980 -- saying he was "extremely disappointed" with the "sham" election.
His comments came at a summit in Japan of the Group of Eight industrial powers, also attended by South African President Thabo Mbeki, who is the chief mediator on Zimbabwe, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Ban, speaking to AFP on his plane as he arrived in Japan, said Mugabe's election lacked legitimacy.
"Therefore I urged that political parties in Zimbabwe should work out an arrangement so that they can really bring back democractic rules, the rule of law and peace and stability in their country," Ban said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel meanwhile said new sanctions were to be discussed at the three-day gathering.
During a visit to South Africa, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Mugabe had "turned the weapons of the state on his own people" and called on the world to support fresh sanctions.
A limited package of sanctions, including a travel ban and a freeze of bank accounts, was imposed on Mugabe and his inner circle by Western governments after he allegedly rigged his 2002 re-election.
Mugabe has regularly blamed the sanctions for the economic collapse of the region's breadbasket where inflation is now well into eight figures and the most basic foods, such as bread and cooking oil, are scarce.
His critics say that Mugabe triggered the country's economic woes by expropriating thousands of white-owned farms as part of a land reform programme and say hyper-inflation is being fuelled by the non-stop printing of money.