Page last updated at 13:21 GMT, Saturday, 28 June 2008 14:21 UK

Zimbabwe sanctions 'not helpful'

Zimbabweans outside a polling station in Harare, 27 June
Reports from across the country indicated low voter turnout

Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Watangula has said sanctions against Zimbabwe are unlikely to work.

He was speaking after US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Washington would do everything in its power to push for sanctions.

Mr Watangula said President Robert Mugabe and the opposition should instead be encouraged to talk.

Votes from Friday's presidential run-off poll in Zimbabwe - boycotted by the opposition - are still being counted.

Opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew from the election amid claims of violence and intimidation by government supporters.

Reports suggest a large number of spoiled ballot papers.

The first and most important thing is for the people of Zimbabwe and their leadership to sit down and talk to each other, instead of talking at each other
Moses Watangula
Kenyan Foreign Minister

Zimbabwean journalist Brian Hungwe says that in some cases, voters expressed their anger against the violence by calling Mr Mugabe a murderer on the ballot papers.

He adds that in one ward in the opposition stronghold of Matabeleland, there were more spoiled papers than votes for Mr Mugabe.

On Friday, the UN Security Council said it deeply regretted Zimbabwe's decision to go ahead with the presidential poll.

It said conditions for a free and fair election did not exist, but - after objections from South Africa - stopped short of saying it was illegitimate.

Western pressure

Mr Watangula, whose own country recently went through a period of political violence before a power-sharing deal was brokered, was speaking at a meeting of African Union (AU) foreign ministers in the Egyptian town of Sharm el-Sheik.

Many Western leaders have urged the AU to take action against Zimbabwe at its summit, which begins on Monday.

But Mr Wetangula told reporters: "History has shown us that they (sanctions) don't work because the leadership just dig in and dig in and feel persecuted.

This election is a charade - Mugabe and his thugs have succeeded in driving out the opposition
Nikolai, UK

"I think we need to engage Zimbabwe. The route of sanctions may not be the helpful one... the first and most important thing is for the people of Zimbabwe and their leadership to sit down and talk to each other, instead of talking at each other.

"I've heard from both sides statements to the effect that they are willing to talk. I think what is important is at what level do we start talking, to whom do we talk, and what do we talk about."

Libya's minister for African affairs, Ali Treiki, whose country was the subject of international sanctions for many years, told Reuters news agency that he believed sanctions "never help".

He said: "Let us envisage that a government of coalition should be formed from both the government and opposition to run the country.

"I think the example we did in Kenya is a very good example."

African voices on Zimbabwe's poll crisis

Mr Mugabe is expected to attend the summit, and the BBC's Peter Biles in Johannesburg says he will want to declare victory before leaving for Egypt.

The UN Security Council is expected to return to the issue of Zimbabwe in the coming days.

However, diplomats say that because of resistance from South Africa, China and Russia, the council is unlikely to impose sanctions.

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network, a monitoring group, reported that people in most rural areas had been forced to vote in Friday's poll.

A Zimbabwean journalist said militias loyal to Mr Mugabe had gone door-to-door in townships outside the capital, Harare, to coerce people.

Despite the pressure, Marwick Khumalo, who heads of the Pan-African parliamentary observer mission, told the BBC that overall turnout had been low and the mood sombre.

Mr Mugabe came second to Mr Tsvangirai in the first round of the presidential vote in March.

Since then, the MDC says some 86 of its supporters have been killed and 200,000 forced from their homes by militias loyal to Zanu-PF.

The government blames the MDC for the violence, but Mr Mugabe has suggested negotiations with the MDC were possible - "should we emerge victorious, which I believe we will".

Mr Tsvangirai has said negotiations would not be possible if Mr Mugabe went ahead with the run-off.

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