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Page last updated at 01:19 GMT, Wednesday, 25 June 2008 02:19 UK

Mugabe defiant as criticism grows

Mr Mugabe has defied calls for Friday's vote to be called off

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has vowed to press ahead with Friday's run-off presidential election despite growing international condemnation.

Speaking to supporters, he said London and Washington could "shout as loud as they like" but the vote would be held.

South Africa's governing ANC party has accused his government of "riding roughshod" over democracy, while the UN has said a fair poll is "impossible".

Zimbabwe's opposition has withdrawn from the poll amid mounting violence.

The Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) regional bloc is due to hold an emergency summit on Wednesday on Zimbabwe's political crisis, reports said.

Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change, led by Morgan Tsvangirai, said it had confirmed in writing on Tuesday its withdrawal from the presidential race.

The MDC says some 86 supporters have been killed and 200,000 forced from their homes by Zanu-PF militias. The ruling Zanu-PF party blames the MDC for the violence.

'Compelling evidence'

Speaking at a rally in the town of Banket, Mr Mugabe said: "They can shout as loud as they like from Washington or from London or from any other quarter. Our people, our people, only our people will decide and nobody else."

We are deeply dismayed by the actions of the government of Zimbabwe which is riding roughshod over the hard-won democratic rights of the people of that country
African National Congress statement

He accused Mr Tsvangirai of pulling out of the election because he became frightened of losing when he saw "a political hurricane coming his way".

The UN Security Council on Monday unanimously agreed to condemn the violence in Zimbabwe and said a free and fair run-off election would be "impossible".

Tuesday saw a senior US state department official said Washington would not recognise the result of the vote because the opposition had been violently forced out of the running.

"People were being beaten and losing their lives just to exercise their right to vote for their leadership so we cannot, under these conditions, recognise the outcome if, in fact, this run-off goes forward," Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer told the BBC.

South Africa's governing ANC party added its voice to growing international criticism of Mr Mugabe's government on Tuesday.

It was "deeply dismayed by the actions of the Zimbabwean government - which is riding roughshod over hard-won democratic rights", the party said.

It referred to "compelling evidence of violence, intimidation and outright terror".

Morgan Tsvangirai addresses media in Harare on 22 June 2008

The BBC's Peter Biles in Johannesburg says that coming from South Africa - the most powerful country in the region - the ANC statement is a further sign of Mr Mugabe's growing isolation.

South African President Thabo Mbeki has been adopting a policy of "quiet diplomacy" towards Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile, Mr Tsvangirai said he might leave the Dutch embassy in Harare on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Mr Tsvangirai, who took refuge there on Sunday night, hours after pulling out of this Friday's vote, said the Dutch ambassador had received assurances from the Zimbabwean authorities about his safety.

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, in a statement about his attempts to mediate in Zimbabwe, said Mr Tsvangirai had been fleeing soldiers when he took refuge.

In other developments on Tuesday:

ZIMBABWE AND ITS NEIGHBOURS

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Zimbabwe's opposition wants neighbouring countries to persuade Robert Mugabe to step down. So how are relations changing?

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South Africa's leader Thabo Mbeki remains the key mediator. He has not criticised Mr Mugabe, despite pressure from the ruling ANC.

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Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa called Zimbabwe a "regional embarrassment", before suffering a stroke on 29 June.

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Angola's President Jose Eduardo dos Santos is one of Robert Mugabe's closest allies. He has urged Mr Mugabe to end the violence.

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Botswana said Zimbabwe's 27 June run-off vote was so flawed by violence that it could not be considered legitimate.

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Namibia is an ally of Robert Mugabe. It wants to re-distribute white-owned farms to black villagers. It has not criticised the violence.

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Mozambique has hosted some white farmers forced out of Zimbabwe when their land was seized. It is seen as sympathetic to the opposition.

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Tanzania's ruling party has a history of backing Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party. Its foreign minister has condemned the violence.

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DR Congo's President Joseph Kabila is an ally of Robert Mugabe who sent troops to help his father, Laurent Kabila, fight rebels.

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Malawi is seen as neutral. But 3m people from Malawi are in Zimbabwe and many were badly hit by the farm invasions.

1 of 9

  • Former UN High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina Paddy Ashdown, a British politician, warned Zimbabwe's violence could descend into genocide like that in Rwanda in 1994
  • The International Cricket Council said it would consider whether to ban Zimbabwe from international cricket at a meeting in Dubai next week
  • An African election observer, who does not want to be named, told the BBC torture was "the order of the day" in Zimbabwe
  • A BBC reporter in Bulawayo, south-west of Harare, reported that members of an MDC faction had this week been ambushing and attacking pro-Zanu-PF so-called war veterans in the area

The MDC won the parliamentary vote in March, and claims to have won the first round of the presidential contest outright.

According to official results, Mr Tsvangirai was ahead of Mr Mugabe but failed to gain enough votes to avoid a run-off.


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