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U.S. Blasts Mugabe on Zimbabwe Violence

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U.S. Blasts Mugabe on Zimbabwe Violence

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U.S. Blasts Mugabe on Zimbabwe Violence

U.S. Blasts Mugabe on Zimbabwe Violence

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In Zimbabwe, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has taken refuge in the Dutch Embassy after dropping out of Friday's presidential run-offs. The U.S. Monday condemned President Robert Mugabe's supporters and said his government cannot be considered legitimate in the absence of a run-off.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

We begin this hour in Zimbabwe, the scene of a deadly political crisis. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, fearing for his life, has pulled out of a presidential runoff and sought refuge in the Dutch Embassy in Harare. This after scores of his supporters have been intimidated, beaten, even killed. The U.S. and others are trying to turn up the heat on President Robert Mugabe's government, now questioning its legitimacy.

NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN: Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai spent last night in the Dutch Embassy and, according to a spokesman in the Netherlands, is weighing his options. He hasn't applied for asylum but has sought refuge from the political violence in Zimbabwe. Dozens of his supporters have been killed in recent weeks. And speaking to NPR today, Tsvangirai called on the international community to investigate crimes such as...

Mr. MORGAN TSVANGIRAI (President, Movement for Democratic Change Party): Rape, torture, murder and the various human rights abuse that is taking place.

KELEMEN: A senator from his party, David Coltart, says there's no point in going ahead with this week's runoff because, as he put it, it will only result in further death and further torture, and President Robert Mugabe is likely to simply announce the result he wants.

Senator DAVID COLTART (Co-founder, Movement for Democratic Change): Given the brazen nature of the violence, it is clear that Robert Mugabe has thrown caution to the wind. And our assumption is that if he is brazen now in the run-up to the elections, he is going to be equally brazen on election day and in the count.

KELEMEN: In an interview with NPR today, Coltart called the climate of fear in Zimbabwe unprecedented. He said his party, the Movement for Democratic Change, wants to see regional leaders speak out and stop giving Mugabe diplomatic cover.

Sen. COLTART: Our feeling is if that diplomatic cover is withdrawn, then he will find himself very exposed and may well yet be forced to the negotiating table.

KELEMEN: The Bush administration, which has long tried to get regional actors to speak up more forcefully, managed to get the U.N. Security Council to agree on a statement this evening condemning Zimbabwe's government for its campaign of violence. And State Department spokesman Tom Casey said this shouldn't be a one-off debate for the council.

Mr. TOM CASEY (Deputy Spokesman, U.S. State Department): It is abundantly clear that Mugabe is determined to thwart the will of the people of Zimbabwe. And it is equally clear to us that the Mugabe regime cannot be considered legitimate in the absence of a runoff.

KELEMEN: Robert Mugabe lost the first round of elections to Morgan Tsvangirai in March, but official results showed that Tsvangirai did not get the absolute majority he needed to avoid a runoff. Zimbabwe's government says it's too late to call off the vote, but that's exactly what U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is calling on Robert Mugabe to do.

Secretary-General BAN KI-MOON (United Nations): There has been too much violence, too much intimidation. A vote held in these conditions would lack all legitimacy.

KELEMEN: Even today, as Morgan Tsvangirai hid in the Dutch Embassy, police raided his headquarters and jailed dozens of opposition figures. Ban Ki-moon called on authorities in Zimbabwe to stop a, quote, campaign of threat and intimidation and postpone the runoff. He said his envoy is ready to help mediate. The U.N. secretary-general said the region's political and economic security is at stake.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

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Zimbabwe's Opposition Leader Pulls Out of Election

Zimbabwe's Opposition Leader Pulls Out of Election

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Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change, announced Sunday that he is pulling out of next Friday's presidential run-off election.

Tsvangirai said a free and fair election was not possible in Zimbabwe and the loss of life among his supporters was simply too high a price to pay. The move follows a wave of political violence that most observers have blamed on supporters of veteran President Robert Mugabe.

From across Zimbabwe's border in South Africa, NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton tells host Liane Hansen that Mugabe has been "more or less" handed a victory by default with Tsvangirai's announcement.

She also says the opposition hopes that by withdrawing from the poll, pressure will be put on the international community to act to end the political violence in Zimbabwe since the first round of voting in March.

"The opposition has very firmly put the onus not only on the international community, but also the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the African Union and diplomacy by saying, 'Look, there is no way that we could take part' in what it has called a sham of an electoral process," she says.

Quist-Arcton also says the people in Zimbabwe are suffering.

"They are being beaten," Quist-Arcton says. "Beaten on the bottom of their feet; being beaten on their buttocks if they support the opposition by pro-Mugabe thugs who are telling them: 'We will show you who to vote for this time because you voted the wrong way last time.' But there is not only a political and electoral crisis in Zimbabwe; we also have an economic crisis with inflation running, officially, at 160,000 percent – and unofficially much higher. This is a crisis."

Zimbabwe's Information Minister, Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, announced that the opposition was withdrawing from the election to avoid a total humiliation because it knew Tsvangirai was going to lose.

Meanwhile, President Mugabe has already made it clear that he will never voluntarily relinquish power after 28 years, saying only God can remove him from office.