UN Security Council divided on Zimbabwe

April 30th, 2008 - 3:23 am ICT by admin  

New York, April 30 (DPA) UN Security Council members were divided on ways to deal with Zimbabwe’s political crisis, diplomats said Tuesday, after the body held its first discussion on the unresolved presidential elections in that country. A delegation of Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was at UN headquarters holding talks with some council members, trying to convince them to send a fact-finding mission or a special envoy to assess the situation.

But the idea of a mission or special envoy received no unanimous support from the council’s 15 members. Some of them said it would be up to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to decide. But the UN undersecretary general for political affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe, said Ban can lend his good offices to mediate an end to the crises.

“The Security Council is divided,” said US Deputy Ambassador Alenjandro Wolff after the lengthy closed-door council meeting. “Some council members think the Zimbabweans should resolve the situation themselves.”

MDC Secretary General Tendai Biti told reporters, “Zimbabwe is a war zone with the militias deployed everywhere. There is a complete militarization of the country by the military junta and people are disappearing.”

Biti said his country is facing a “humanitarian catastrophe” because of the lack of food supplies since the turmoil after the March 29 presidential elections. He urged the UN to send an envoy to assess the humanitarian situation, a similar step taken by the UN in May, 2005, after the Harare government ordered the destruction of slums and displaced tens of thousands of people.

Biti feared, however, that the MDC would not be given the same attention from the UN because it is not part of the government. He said he planned to talk to all 15 council members.

Diplomats said following the council meeting that they received a “sobering” account from Pascoe about the situation in Zimbabwe, but there was no unanimous reaction from the council about what immediate action to take.

British Deputy Ambassador Karen Pierce said her government favoured using the UN secretary general’s good offices to intervene in Zimbabwe’s crises and to work with the Southern African Development Community as well as the African Union.

Pierce said the council should debate the situation in Zimbabwe in public because the humanitarian conditions of some 1.5 million people depending on food aid needed to be discussed openly.

The meeting on Zimbabwe was requested by the United States, Britain and France to hear a briefing from UN officials on the situation. Council members remained divided on whether the body should take action to break the impasse in the March 29 elections caused by Zimbabwe’s refusal to release results of the first round of vote for weeks.

“We think that the situation there is still developing, but not in the good direction,” French Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert told reporters before the council meeting.

Ripert said the government of President Robert Mugabe should make public and accept the March 29 elections’ results because, he said, “the people of Zimbabwe have expressed themselves.”

In Washington, President George W. Bush stressed that “the will of the people needs to be respected in Zimbabwe” because Mugabe “has failed the country”.

He denounced violence there and urged neighbouring countries “to step up and lead and recognize that the will of the people must be respected and recognize that that will came about because they’re tired of failed leadership.”

Ripert said a UN fact-finding mission to Zimbabwe remained a “possibility,” but he said France for the moment would rely on regional organization such as SADC to resolve the crisis.

Some council members, including neighbouring South Africa, insist Zimbabwe’s unresolved elections are an internal matter and not a threat to peace and security in the region. Therefore, the council cannot inject itself into the crisis.

The Western nations on the council disagreed, saying it has caused massive displacement of civilians and created instability in the region.

Diplomats cautioned that the 15-nation council’s discussion on Zimbabwe was the first step and would not necessarily lead to an concrete measure.

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