AFP - British Foreign Secretary David Miliband on Monday slammed "the denial of reality" by Zimbabwean President Mugabe's regime as the UN Security Council reviewed the dire situation in the southern African country.
The closed-door meeting, also attended by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, heard a briefing from UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Zimbabwe's mounting woes, including a political stalemate, economic meltdown and a deadly cholera epidemic.
US diplomats had hoped to have the council adopt a non-binding statement condemning Mugabe for his failure to protect his people from the cholera outbreak, but a Western diplomat said the plan was blocked by South Africa.
The diplomat said Western council members hope to make a fresh push for adoption of such a statement in January when South Africa will no longer sit on the council.
"We believe that this meeting needs to mark the restart of of Security Council engagement on this issue," Miliband said. "I hope the Security Council will continue in the weeks ahead to continue to engage."
Miliband told reporters after a closed-door council ministerial session that Ban presented a "shocking" picture of "the disintegration of state institutions, the collapse of the economy,...the collapse of health and education services and the shocking fact that cholera has returned to Zimbabwe."
He said speakers highlighted the humanitarian urgency in Zimbabwe where a cholera epidemic has claimed nearly 1,000 lives and stressed the need for Zimbabwe's neighbors and the African Union to "take a stronger role" in the resolution of the crisis.
The United States blames Mugabe for Zimbabwe's political deadlock, economic meltdown and humanitarian crisis, including the cholera outbreak.
In his briefing, Ban deplored the fact that "neither the (Harare) government nor the mediator welcomes a United Nations political role ... This clearly limits our ability to effectively help find immediate remedies to this crisis."
"The current cholera epidemic is only the most visible manifestation of a profound multi-sectoral crisis, encompassing food, agriculture, education, health, water, sanitation and HIV/AIDS," he added.
He stressed that the mediation by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) "needs result fast."
"The people of Zimbabwe cannot afford to wait any longer. The international community cannot afford to watch as the situation gets worse," Ban noted.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Washington has been talking to Zimbabwe's powerful neighbor South Africa and other Security Council members about how to "start a process that will bring an end to the tragedy that is unfolding in Zimbabwe."
Countries with leverage should use it to press for change in Zimbabwe, McCormack said.
A senior US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, proposed Thursday that Zimbabwe's neighbors, particularly South Africa, close their borders with the country.
Zimbabwean Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu however told the state-owned Herald newspaper Monday it was "improper" for western countries to try to put Zimbabwe on the UN Security Council agenda.