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U.S. Blasts Mugabe on Zimbabwe Violence

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

We begin this hour in Zimbabwe, the scene of a deadly political crisis. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, fearing for his life, has pulled out of a presidential runoff and sought refuge in the Dutch Embassy in Harare. This after scores of his supporters have been intimidated, beaten, even killed. The U.S. and others are trying to turn up the heat on President Robert Mugabe's government, now questioning its legitimacy.

NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN: Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai spent last night in the Dutch Embassy and, according to a spokesman in the Netherlands, is weighing his options. He hasn't applied for asylum but has sought refuge from the political violence in Zimbabwe. Dozens of his supporters have been killed in recent weeks. And speaking to NPR today, Tsvangirai called on the international community to investigate crimes such as...

Mr. MORGAN TSVANGIRAI (President, Movement for Democratic Change Party): Rape, torture, murder and the various human rights abuse that is taking place.

KELEMEN: A senator from his party, David Coltart, says there's no point in going ahead with this week's runoff because, as he put it, it will only result in further death and further torture, and President Robert Mugabe is likely to simply announce the result he wants.

Senator DAVID COLTART (Co-founder, Movement for Democratic Change): Given the brazen nature of the violence, it is clear that Robert Mugabe has thrown caution to the wind. And our assumption is that if he is brazen now in the run-up to the elections, he is going to be equally brazen on election day and in the count.

KELEMEN: In an interview with NPR today, Coltart called the climate of fear in Zimbabwe unprecedented. He said his party, the Movement for Democratic Change, wants to see regional leaders speak out and stop giving Mugabe diplomatic cover.

Sen. COLTART: Our feeling is if that diplomatic cover is withdrawn, then he will find himself very exposed and may well yet be forced to the negotiating table.

KELEMEN: The Bush administration, which has long tried to get regional actors to speak up more forcefully, managed to get the U.N. Security Council to agree on a statement this evening condemning Zimbabwe's government for its campaign of violence. And State Department spokesman Tom Casey said this shouldn't be a one-off debate for the council.

Mr. TOM CASEY (Deputy Spokesman, U.S. State Department): It is abundantly clear that Mugabe is determined to thwart the will of the people of Zimbabwe. And it is equally clear to us that the Mugabe regime cannot be considered legitimate in the absence of a runoff.

KELEMEN: Robert Mugabe lost the first round of elections to Morgan Tsvangirai in March, but official results showed that Tsvangirai did not get the absolute majority he needed to avoid a runoff. Zimbabwe's government says it's too late to call off the vote, but that's exactly what U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is calling on Robert Mugabe to do.

Secretary-General BAN KI-MOON (United Nations): There has been too much violence, too much intimidation. A vote held in these conditions would lack all legitimacy.

KELEMEN: Even today, as Morgan Tsvangirai hid in the Dutch Embassy, police raided his headquarters and jailed dozens of opposition figures. Ban Ki-moon called on authorities in Zimbabwe to stop a, quote, campaign of threat and intimidation and postpone the runoff. He said his envoy is ready to help mediate. The U.N. secretary-general said the region's political and economic security is at stake.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Michele Kelemen
Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.