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UN delays vote, Zimbabwe parties resume talks

Latest update : 2008-07-11

The UN delayed a vote on sanctions against Zimbabwe on Thursday. The opposing parties of Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai resumed South Africa-mediated talks.

The Security Council on Thursday delayed a vote on UN sanctions against Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe as  the Harare government and its opposition resumed South African-mediated talks.
Vietnam's UN ambassador Le Luong Minh, who chairs the council this month, told reporters that the United States, which drafted the sanctions resolution, had so far made no attempt to push for a Thursday vote.
The US delegation had hoped to have a vote late Wednesday on the text, which would slap for an assets freeze and a travel ban on Mugabe and 13 of his cronies, as well as an arms embargo.
"There was a request to put to the vote that resolution yesterday. But the the request was canceled," Minh said. "So far we have not received any request to schedule a vote on that yet."
He said Vietnam and other opponents of the draft, which is backed by Washington's European allies, instead wanted to extend support to the ongoing South African-mediated talks between Zimbabwe's ruling party and opposition in Pretoria.
"We have been seeing efforts under way by the African Union and the (14-nation) SADC (Southern African Development Community) and we think those efforts should be supported," Minh said.
In Washington, a senior State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, cited procedural objections raised by veto-wielding members Russia and China to having a vote late Wednesday.
The official added that consultations were under way to determine whether a vote could be held Friday but cautioned: "I never put a timeline on this."
"We have the nine votes (required for adoption of the draft), but we need to know where Russia and China are," a Western diplomat told AFP here, alluding to a possible use of the veto.
"They are asking for more time, so the vote's been pushed back to tomorrow," the diplomat added.
In Pretoria, Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) held talks Thursday for the first time since Mugabe won the June 27, one-man runoff election widely seen as lacking legitimacy.
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who won the first round of the presidential balloting last March but boycotted last month's runoff, confirmed in a statement that the MDC would set pre-conditions for further talks at the Pretoria meeting.
These include an immediate halt to violence, the release of more than 1,500 political prisoners, the swearing in of MPs and an expanded mediation team to include an African Union permanent envoy.
Tuesday, US Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad said he believed he had the nine votes needed for passage provided there is no veto from any of the five permanent members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States. He added that he did not anticipate a veto.
The US draft provides for an assets freeze and a travel ban on Mugabe and 13 of his cronies as well as an arms embargo on the Harare regime in protest at the June 27 runoff which was seen by the UN as "flawed" and lacking legitimacy.
South Africa, the lead mediator in Zimbabwe's election crisis on behalf of the SADC, opposes sanctions, arguing that they would "complicate the situation."
Russia, China, Vietnam, Libya and Indonesia have also raised objections.
The US draft would also demand that the Harare government "begin without delay a substantive dialogue between the parties with the aim of arriving at a peaceful solution that reflects the will of the Zimbabwean people as expressed by the March 29 (first-round presidential) elections."
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai won the first round but fell short of a majority. He pulled out of the run-off citing a campaign of violence and intimidation.
The US draft resolution would direct UN chief Ban Ki-moon to appoint "an individual of international standing and expertise to serve as his special representative ... who would support the negotiation process between the political parties in Zimbabwe."






Meanwhile, Zimbabwe warned in a letter to the Security Council that imposing sanctions on its leadership could start a civil war and turn the country into another Somalia.


Zimbabwe's letter said the country was "not at war with itself" and posed no threat to its neighbors or any other country, and therefore not a subject for council action.


Describing its problems as a "bilateral quarrel" with former colonial ruler Britain, the letter said London and its ally Washington wanted to punish Zimbabwe for its land reform program, which awarded many white-owned farms to blacks.


The letter admitted there had been violence in Zimbabwe but accused Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) of premeditating, planning, stage-managing and exaggerating it.


It said the "punitive resolution" would "somalianize" the country by removing its elected government. Somalia, in the Horn of Africa, has been the scene of constant clashes between warring factions for the past 17 years.


The resolution would "most probably start a civil war in the country because, in their obsession with 'regime change,' Britain and the USA are determined to ignore real, entrenched, fundamental and enduring issues that lie at the heart of Zimbabwe's internal politics," it added.


The letter said Harare was open to mediation efforts by South African President Thabo Mbeki. Zimbabwe's ruling party and the MDC held talks in Pretoria on Thursday, although the MDC said they were not substantive negotiations.


Vietnamese Ambassador Le Luong Minh, asked if the Pretoria talks should be given some time before there was a vote, told reporters: "That is our national position and it is the position shared by many members of the council."


U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters sanctions were up to the council but he hoped the talks would lead to a solution. "Whenever it is necessary I will be prepared to engage myself in this," he said.


Date created : 2008-07-11