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Thursday, 14 March, 2002, 17:45 GMT
Straw condemns Mugabe 'tragedy'
Zanu-PF supporters
Mr Mugabe's supporters celebrate victory
UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has condemned Robert Mugabe's election victory in Zimbabwe as a "tragedy" for the people of Southern Africa.

We do not recognise the result nor its legitimacy

Jack Straw
Mr Straw told MPs Mr Mugabe had "exploited every instrument of the state to distort the outcome of the election".

The foreign secretary stopped short of announcing new sanctions against Zimbabwe.

But in a strongly worded statement in the House of Commons, he said the UK would "continue to oppose any access by the government of Zimbabwe to international financial resources until a more representative government is in place.

"Robert Mugabe may have claimed to have won these elections but the people of Zimbabwe have lost."

Shadow Foreign Secretary Michael Ancram said Mr Straw had "not gone nearly far enough" in condemning Mr Mugabe's electoral conduct.

Mr Straw said he regretted the tone of Mr Ancram's comments.

"I thought it was palpably obvious from what I said that we do not recognise the result nor its legitimacy," he told MPs.

'Further sanctions'

Britain will await the verdict of the three nations appointed by the Commonwealth to assess the Zimbabwean poll - South Africa, Nigeria and Australia - before deciding on its next move, said Mr Straw.

But EU leaders would be discussing the possibility of further sanctions when they meet for the Barcelona summit later on Thursday, he added.

Mr Mugabe won a fifth term on Wednesday amid allegations of violence, intimidation and vote-rigging.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
Britain urged Zimbabwe's suspension from the Commonwealth before the polls
His Zanu-PF party is accused of "serious electoral malpractice" resulting in the disenfranchisement of thousands of voters.

Quoting from a report by Commonwealth election observers, Mr Straw said the manner of Mr Mugabe's victory "seriously called into question the application of the rule of law in Zimbabwe".

Mr Straw also pointed to a report by the Southern Africa Development Community (SADAC), which said Zimbabwe's political process fell short of accepted standards.

'True democrats'

"Zimbabweans have plainly been denied their fundamental right to choose by whom they are governed," Mr Straw added.

He paid tribute to the people of Zimbabwe whose faith in democracy had led some of them to queue for two days to cast their vote.

An open and bleeding wound on the body of that great continent

Michael Ancram on Zimbabwe's election result
"They are the true democrats," he told MPs.

But the "failure of the electoral process in Zibambwe" was a "tragedy" for the whole region, Mr Straw said.

The foreign secretary consulted with key figures in the US, the European Union and the Commonwealth before making his statement.

'Not going far enough'

Most foreign and local observers have said the vote was deeply flawed and unjust, but teams from South Africa and Nigeria are describing the ballot as "legitimate".

Tory foreign affairs spokesman Michael Ancram said political murders, torture and media gagging were "all the attributes of fascist regimes."

He said events in Zimbabwe were a test for the Commonwealth as to whether the principles upon which that organisation is founded mean anything at all."

He said the Zimbabwe result was also a test for Tony Blair, who has spoken about "healing the scar that is Africa" to show that he can, even belatedly, give the leadership to mend what is not just a scar but an open and bleeding wound on the body of that great continent".

Credibility questions

Speaking earlier, Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell said that the credibility of the Commonwealth now rested on its response to the election result.

"By any standard the Mugabe regime displayed scant regard for human rights, ignored the rule of law and abused democratic principles," he said.

"The credibility of the Commonwealth can hardly be sustained if it takes no action."

The BBC's Hilary Andersson
"So much for democracy"
Jack Straw, British Foreign Affairs Minister
"The government of Zimbabwe has conducted a campaign of violence and intimidation"

Key stories

The vote



See also:

14 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Peer calls for Zimbabwe suspension
11 Mar 02 | Africa
In pictures: Zimbabwe votes
13 Mar 02 | Business
Economists fear worst for Zimbabwe
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