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US Presses for Zimbabwe Vote at UN Security Council

By Margaret Besheer
United Nations
08 July 2008

The United States says it believes it has enough votes to move forward this week on a Security Council resolution sanctioning Zimbabwe's president and members of his inner circle. But some other council members are still expressing doubt over whether sanctions are the appropriate way to go right now. From United Nation's headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

The U.S.-drafted resolution calls for economic and travel sanctions against Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and 13 of his closest allies, as well as an expanded arms embargo against the government.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad said Tuesday that the Security Council cannot be indifferent to what is happening in Zimbabwe and that action is required.

"I believe a clear majority of the council members who spoke - and the numbers that are necessary for a resolution to pass - assuming there is no veto, are there in support of the course that I have outlined. I think they are persuaded by the argument that we have to act and we have to act in way that incentivizes cooperation and helps get Zimbabwe out of the current crisis," he said.

In order to pass, the measure requires at least nine of the 15 council members to vote in favor and none of the five veto-wielding members to vote against it.

The United States has support from at least two of the other five veto-carrying countries - France and Britain. China, which has strong trade ties with Zimbabwe, is not likely to risk more bad publicity by vetoing the measure just weeks ahead of hosting the Olympic Games and could either vote in favor or abstain.

But Russia has expressed serious reservations about the resolution. "We need to remind ourselves from time-to-time that the U.N. Charter does not empower the Security Council to interfere in internal affairs of states unless the situation there poses a threat to international peace and security. There is a serious question in our mind if the situation in Zimbabwe can be characterized as a threat to international peace and security - at least to an extent which would warrant passing of a Security Council resolution under Chapter 7," said Ambassador Vitaly Churkin.

Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter authorizes the Security Council to determine threats to international peace and take military or non-military action to restore peace and stability.

South Africa has also questioned whether the situation in Zimbabwe is a threat to international peace and security. President Thabo Mbeki has been leading regional efforts to mediate an end to the crisis, but so far those efforts have been unsuccessful and Mr. Mbeki has come under some international criticism for his soft approach and close relationship with Mr. Mugabe.

South Africa's U.N. Ambassador, Dumisani Kumalo said sanctions would only create more complications. "We understand. We share the frustration of everybody. But we say don't take measures that are going to complicate the situation and literally blow the country apart. Take measures that will urge the parties to go ahead and seek a political solution," he said.

Several council members have also expressed concern about setting a precedent in interfering in a country's elections, saying that is not in the realm of the Security Council's authority.

During its meeting Tuesday, the council was briefed privately by U.N. envoy Haile Menkerios, who recently visited Zimbabwe. In a public session they heard from U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon's deputy, Asha-Rose Migiro, just back from the African Union summit in Egypt.

Mrs. Migiro called the elections "seriously flawed" and said the only way out of the crisis is for the two sides to agree on a political solution that would pave the way for a democratic transition and economic recovery. She said the creation of a government of national unity as a way forward enjoys broad support in the region and that the U.N. secretary-general strongly supports this recommendation.


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