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Senior UN political official meets South African leader after visit to Zimbabwe

20 June 2008 – Senior United Nations political aide Haile Menkerios met with South African President Thabo Mbeki in Pretoria today, following a five-day visit to neighbouring Zimbabwe, which has been beset by deadly political violence since the first round of the presidential election on 29 March.

Mr. Menkerios, the Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, was dispatched to Zimbabwe by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in an attempt to reduce political tensions ahead of the run-off round of the presidential election set for 27 June.

“It appears that he will remain in the area for some additional days,” UN spokesperson Michele Montas told journalists in New York.

During his visit to Zimbabwe, Mr. Menkerios met with President Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the two men who will face each other in next week’s run-off. He also held talks with the Foreign Minister, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, church leaders and civil society groups, including human rights organizations.

Mr. Ban and other top UN officials have called for an immediate end to the hostilities, cautioning that the ongoing violence threatens the credibility of the upcoming polls.

The current political crisis is also compounding an already deep social, economic and humanitarian crisis, in a country where as many as 4 million people are in need of help.

The Security Council will meet on Zimbabwe on Monday, when it will be briefed by the UN’s top political official, Under-Secretary-General B. Lynn Pascoe.

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