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Page last updated at 04:23 GMT, Tuesday, 1 July 2008 05:23 UK

Zimbabwe scorns sanctions calls

Robert Mugabe at the AU summit on 30 June 2008
Robert Mugabe has been sworn in for a sixth term

Zimbabwe's ambassador to the UN has dismissed calls for sanctions against his country over pre-election violence, in an interview with US media.

Boniface Chidyausiku dubbed US-led calls for fresh UN measures against Zimbabwe a "non-issue".

Pressure is growing on African leaders meeting in Egypt to take a firm line on Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe.

Mr Mugabe has claimed victory in a presidential poll that the opposition pulled out of amid widespread violence.

'Not bothered'

Asked about sanctions, Mr Chidyausiku told AP news agency: "I'm not even bothered, I wouldn't lose sleep over it... We are not a threat to international peace and security."

Zimbabwe has nothing to worry about, its UN ambassador said

He added: "We see the whole approach to sanctions as a weapon to try and effect a regime change in Zimbabwe."

The Zimbabwe crisis has overshadowed the African Union (AU) summit in Sharm el-Sheikh.

Sierra Leonean President Ernest Koroma said African leaders should use Tuesday, the final day of the two-day summit, to condemn Mr Mugabe's re-election.

Mr Koroma expressed support for a South African initiative to encourage the formation of a transitional government of national unity.

We think it is important the African Union signal that a sham inauguration preceded by a sham election does not make the government legitimate
Tom Casey
US state department spokesman

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga urged the AU to suspend Mr Mugabe until he allows free and fair elections.

And Senegal's Foreign Minister, Cheikh Tidiane Gadio, complained of hesitancy among the AU leaders to openly pressure the Zimbabwean president.

But Africa's longest serving leader, Gabon President Omar Bongo, said Mr Mugabe should be accepted as the country's elected president.

'Hugs'

Before the opening meeting at the Red Sea resort, Mr Mugabe hugged several heads of states and diplomats, one African delegate told AP news agency.

Correspondents say he is still seen by many Africans as a hero of the anti-colonial struggle.

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad, said he was pressing for the Security Council to impose sanctions against Zimbabwe.

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.

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The US is expected to present a draft resolution on Wednesday calling for an arms embargo, a travel ban on regime officials and a freeze on the assets of key individuals and companies.

US state department spokesman Tom Casey said: "We think it is important that the African Union signal that a sham inauguration that was preceded by a sham election does not make the government legitimate."

But analysts say it may be difficult to persuade South Africa, Russia, China and others to accept UN sanctions.

Criticism from Europe mounted on Monday with France labelling Mr Mugabe's government "illegitimate," and Britain saying the recent election would not be recognised.

Italy - which last week urged EU nations to withdraw their ambassadors to Harare - recalled its envoy to Zimbabwe in protest.

MDC leader Mr Tsvangirai defeated Mr Mugabe in the presidential vote on 29 March but failed to win an absolute majority.

He reluctantly agreed to participate in the 27 June run-off but withdrew blaming violence which he said had killed nearly 90 of his followers.

He has been holed up at the Dutch Embassy in Harare since withdrawing from the race.


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