U.N. Security Council Fails to Pressure Zimbabwe’s Government


Washington -- Expressing disappointment at the failure of the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution condemning and sanctioning Zimbabwe's leaders, U.S. officials said they will continue to seek ways to pressure President Robert Mugabe's government to end the violence against its political opposition and engage it in serious negotiations.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said July 14 that the Bush administration is talking to others in the international community about the next steps to take on Zimbabwe.[W]e’re going to continue to find ways working with our partners in the international system to put pressure on the Zimbabwean government in such a way that the people of Zimbabwe can start to move forward, start to rebuild their democracy, [and] start to rebuild their country, McCormack said.

Clearly we’re disappointed in the outcome of the vote, he said, adding Security Council members had a very clear choice and that those who had voted against the resolution on July 11 find themselves on the wrong side of history.

The resolution sought to address political violence and intimidation perpetrated against the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party and its supporters who won the country’s March parliamentary elections but pulled out of a presidential runoff vote in June in the face of continued harassment and killings by supporters of the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) headed by Mugabe.

The measure, which would have instituted an arms embargo on Zimbabwe and a travel ban upon President Mugabe and 13 of his close allies, was supported by the majority of the Security Council members but was vetoed by two of its permanent members, Russia and China.

The U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, said July 11 that Russia and China have stood with Mugabe against the people of Zimbabwe by blocking the resolution for reasons that we think are not borne out by the facts on the ground.


In a statement after the vote, Khalilzad said Russia’s veto was particularly surprising and disturbing because the country had joined its partners in the Group of Eight (G8) leading industrialized nations in a statement that strongly condemned the Mugabe regime and promised further steps, including financial measures against those responsible for the political violence. (See G8 Leaders Statement on Zimbabwe ( http://www.america.gov/st/texttrans-english/2008/July/20080708152411bpuh2.582949e-02.html ).)

The Russian performance here today raises questions about its reliability as a G8 partner, he said.

Khalilzad said there should be no doubt that what is happening in Zimbabwe affects peace and security in the region, citing recent African Union statements and the fact that three African members of the council — Liberia, Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso — had co-sponsored the resolution.

He also said that despite the claims of South Africa, no serious, substantive negotiations are under way between the Mugabe regime and the MDC, and the resolution would have empowered regional and international mediators by giving Mr. Mugabe an incentive to negotiate seriously.

Speaking to reporters July 11 after the Security Council vote, Khalilzad said the performance of South Africa, which also voted against the resolution, was particularly disturbing given the role international sanctions played in the 1980s to pressure its government to end apartheid policies against the South African people. [W]ithout pressure Mugabe was not going to be incentivized to cooperate in ways that are needed, he said.

The South African government, led by President Thabo Mbeki, is protecting a horrible regime in Zimbabwe, Khalilzad said, adding Mbeki’s own mediation effort between ZANU-PF and the MDC so far has been a failure, and needs to be complemented by international efforts such as the appointment of a special representative of the U.N. secretary-general.

Khalilzad said other South Africans, including African National Congress President Jacob Zuma, Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu and trade unions, have spoken the conscience of this country on this issue, but Mbeki is out of touch with the trends inside his own country.

Khalilzad said he hopes the people of Zimbabwe take heart from the fact that a clear majority of the members of the Council stood with them, adding we will continue to do so.

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