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U.N. Council Pressed To Send Mission To Zimbabwe

The U.N. Security Council took up Zimbabwe’s election standoff for the first time on Tuesday, and Western powers pressed for a U.N. mission or envoy to visit the crisis-stricken southern African country.

Vote checking from Zimbabwe’s March 29 presidential poll was put off again on Tuesday, further delaying the day when the world will know if President Robert Mugabe will remain in power in a once-prosperous country that is now in economic meltdown.

France’s U.N. Ambassador, Jean-Maurice Ripert, told reporters the fact that the Security Council had met to discuss the crisis sent a signal to Zimbabwe’s authorities “that we are looking very carefully at what they are doing.”

The U.S. and British envoys said U.N. Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe had told the closed meeting that Zimbabwe was in the midst of its worst humanitarian crisis since independence from Britain.

“He also spoke about a level of political intimidation and violence that I think many council members found quite chilling,” British Deputy Ambassador Karen Pierce said.

Pierce said Britain backed the idea of sending a U.N. envoy or fact-finding mission and had raised the possibility of a voluntary arms embargo or moratorium on arms shipments.

Other European countries, Latin American members and the United States also supported sending an envoy, diplomats said, but South Africa, which currently holds the council presidency, said such a move was not a matter for the council.

Pascoe told reporters U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was willing to “use his good offices” in cooperation with African regional groups that are leading mediation efforts. 

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