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UN sanctions against Mugabe blocked by Russia, China

Latest update : 2008-07-12

China and Russia vetoed a US proposal for UN targeted sanctions on Robert Mugabe's regime in Zimbabwe. The country's envoy stated that Mugabe was "happy" about the development.

China and Russia on Friday vetoed targeted UN sanctions on Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe over his disputed re-election, prompting an angry reaction from the United States which cast doubt on Moscow's reliability as a G8 partner.
   
The Chinese and Russian envoys joined their colleagues from South Africa, Libya and Vietnam in opposing a US draft resolution in the Security Council which would have imposed an assets freeze and a travel ban on Mugabe and 13 of his cronies, as well as an arms embargo. Indonesia abstained.
   
It was the first double veto by Russia and China since January 2007 when they vetoed a draft resolution in the 15-member council that would have urged Myanmar to ease repression and release political prisoners.
   
Voting in favor in Friday's vote were the United States, Britain, France, Burkina Faso, Belgium, Costa Rica, Italy, Panama and Croatia.
   
"China and Russia have stood with Mugabe against the people of Zimbabwe," US Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad fumed.
   
But Zimbabwe's UN envoy Boniface Chidyausiku told the BBC that Mugabe was "happy to know that the United Nations is still a body where there's equal sovereignty of every member of the United Nations and there are checks and balances within the system that protects the weak from the powerful."
   
Sponsors of the draft said the sanctions were needed to pressure Mugabe into stopping the violence against his political foes and agreeing to a genuine power sharing deal with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
   
Opponents countered that passage of the text would undermine ongoing South African-mediated talks between Zimbabwe's ruling party and its opposition and would have run counter to the wishes of African Union leaders at their summit in Egypt earlier this month.
   
Britain's UN Ambassador John Sawers, whose country is Zimbabwe's former colonial ruler, said the 15-member council "missed the opportunity to impose a legal obligation on Mr Mugabe's government to end the violence and intimidation which have scarred Zimbabwe."
   
He said the sponsors would have to look "for further opportunities both here and elsewhere" to assist the struggle for democracy in Zimbabwe.
   
Khalilzad singled out Moscow for special criticism.
   
"The U-turn in the Russian position is particularly surprising and disturbing," he said, saying it raised questions about Moscow's "reliability as a G8 partner."
   
Khalilzad noted that only a few days ago Russian President Dmitry Medvedev backed a G8 statement at a summit in Japan that promised new actions, including targeted "financial measures" against Mugabe and his cronies.
   
The US envoy also had some harsh words for South African President Thabo Mbeki.
   
"President Mbeki actions appear to be protecting Mr. Mugabe, and to be working hand in glove with him at times while he, Mugabe, uses violent means to fragment and weaken the opposition," Khalilzad said.
   
"I think he (Mbeki) is out of touch with the trends inside his own country and that is a source of disappointment given the history of South Africa (a reference to the struggle against apartheid)," he added.
   
French Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert told reporters that Friday's vote was "a failure for the Security Council."
   
His Chinese counterpart Wang Guangya said adopting the sanctions would have been "counterproductive" and would have undermined the South African-mediated talks between the rival Zimbabwean parties.
   
Zimbabwe's UN Ambassador Boniface Chidyausiku expressed gratitude to those council members which he said refused "to be intimidated" by the United States and Britain.
   
He blamed the rejection of the draft on the "arrogance of the Americans."
   
"They think they can the world, but they can't," he added.
   
The vote came as Zimbabwe's ZANU-PF ruling party and opposition Movement for Democratic Change held a second day of talks in South Africa.
   
The talks, aimed at laying the groundwork for fully fledged negotiations to resolve Zimbabwe's political crisis, were the first since Mugabe won a new term as president in a June 27 poll widely denounced as a sham.
   
The US draft would have demanded 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 that first round but fell short of a majority. He pulled out of the run-off citing a campaign of violence and intimidation.

Date created : 2008-07-12

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