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Page last updated at 14:45 GMT, Saturday, 12 July 2008 15:45 UK

Zimbabwe hails sanctions failure

Robert Mugabe
The resolution called for sanctions on Mugabe and 13 other officials

Zimbabwe has hailed the failure of a UN Security Council resolution to impose new sanctions on the country's leaders.

Russia and China vetoed the resolution, saying the situation in Zimbabwe posed no threat to international security.

The UK said it was incomprehensible, while the US said the veto brought into question Russia's reliability as a G8 partner.

But South Africa said sanctions would interfere with attempts to form a national unity government.

The measures proposed in the draft UN resolution had included an arms embargo and a travel ban for President Robert Mugabe and 13 of his key allies.

There has been growing international criticism of Zimbabwe since the re-election of President Robert Mugabe in a run-off boycotted by the opposition.

The opposition's Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change party say they had faced a campaign of violence by Mugabe supporters, which left dozens dead and thousands injured and forced from their homes.

'International racism'

Zimbabwe's Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu described the resolution as an attempt to make the people of Zimbabwe suffer so they would turn against their government.

UN SANCTIONS VOTE
FOR
Belgium
Burkina Faso
Costa Rica
Croatia
France
Italy
Panama
UK
United States
AGAINST
China
Libya
Russia
South Africa
Vietnam
ABSTAINED
Indonesia

Britain, he said, "wanted to divert attention by bringing unfounded allegations against Zimbabwe, against the people of Zimbabwe, trying to make the people of Zimbabwe suffer more with the economic sanctions... so that they can turn against their own government".

Mr Ndlovu thanked Russia and China for upholding, as he put it, the United Nations principle of non-interference with member states.

"We... would like to thank those who helped defeat international racism disguised as multilateral action at the UN."

The resolution had the support of nine council members, the minimum required to pass in the 15-member council.

But the veto of any of the five permanent members - which include Russia and China - is enough to defeat a resolution.

'Dangerous precedent'

South Africa - which is hoping that President Mugabe and the opposition can reach a deal on a power-sharing - voted against sanctions, leading to accusations from the US that it was protecting Mr Mugabe.

Russia's UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin speaks at UN - 11/7/2008
Russia said sanctions would have set a "dangerous precedent"

South Africa's representative, Dumisani Kumalo, said sanctions would interfere with dialogue that would lead to improvements in the humanitarian and economic situation.

Russia's ambassador Vitaly Churkin said sanctions would have taken the UN beyond its mandate.

The Russian foreign ministry added later that the sanctions would have "created a dangerous precedent, opening the way for interference by the Security Council in internal affairs in connection with certain political events including elections, which is a gross violation of the UN Charter".

China's Foreign Ministry's chief spokesman Liu Jianchao said sanctions would complicate conditions in Zimbabwe and would not help to encourage the various factions engage in political dialogue and negotiations.

The US ambassador to the UN, Zalmay Khalilzad, said Russia's veto raised "questions about its reliability as a G8 partner".

UK ambassador says the Security Council has failed Zimbabwe's people

Russia later said this criticism was "unacceptable".

UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Moscow and Beijing had sent mixed signals about their intentions - with Russia using its veto despite a promise by President Dmitry Medvedev to support the resolution when it was discussed at this week's summit of the G8 group of industrialised nations.

The MDC's Morgan Tsvangirai won the first round of Zimbabwe's presidential elections on 29 March, but official results gave him less than the 50% share needed to avoid a run-off.

He pulled out of the run-off poll after many of his supporters were targeted, assaulted and even killed, leaving Mr Mugabe to win unopposed in the second round at the end of June.

The MDC says 113 of its supporters have been killed, some 5,000 are missing and more than 200,000 have been forced from their homes since March.


A special one-hour programme of BBC Focus on Africa exploring the political, economic and social prospects for Zimbabwe will be broadcast on Tuesday 15 July at 1500 GMT on the BBC World Service.



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