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World Criticism Mounts Over Mugabe's Election Plan

World Criticism Mounts Against Mugabe's Plans to Proceed with Election

International criticism is mounting against Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who plans to go ahead with this week's election, despite the withdrawal of the political opposition.

Southern African leaders held an emergency meeting Wednesday in Swaziland's capital, Mbabane and called for Friday's presidential runoff election to be postponed.

U.S. President George Bush said the election appears to be a sham. He said there can not be free elections when a candidate is not allowed to campaign without fear of intimidation.

Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai told VOA on Straight Talk Africa Wednesday that the safety of all Zimbabweans is at risk because of violent conditions in the country. He was speaking from the Dutch embassy in Harare where he has sought refuge because of safety concerns.

Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga disputed Mr. Tsvangirai's claim that the situation in Zimbabwe is unsafe.

Mr. Tsvangirai announced his decision to withdraw from the poll on Sunday, saying violence against his supporters made the election impossible.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela said there is a tragic failure of leadership in Zimbabwe.

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga warned that if the world does not act now, Zimbabwe could face the kind of disaster seen in Rwanda, a reference to the 1994 genocide there.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced Wednesday that his government is preparing new economic sanctions against members of Mr. Mugabe's government.

The British Foreign Office announced that Queen Elizabeth has stripped Mr. Mugabe of his honorary British knighthood, as a mark of revulsion at his government's abuse of human rights. Britain also announced it is suspending all cricket ties with the African country.

In other developments, about 300 people have taken refuge at the South African embassy in Harare. A refuge advocacy group, Refugees International, called Wednesday for Zimbabweans fleeing political violence to receive protection in neighboring countries until they can return safely.

ENDS

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