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Senior UN political official meets with Zimbabwean President

Senior UN political official meets with Zimbabwean President

Haile Menkerios (left) talking to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
A senior United Nations political envoy has held talks with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe at the start of his visit to the Southern African country, aimed at reducing political tensions ahead of the run-off round of the presidential election later this month.

Haile Menkerios, Assistant-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, arrived in Harare yesterday for a five-day visit to Zimbabwe, which has been beset by deadly political violence since the first round of the presidential election on 29 March.

Mr. Menkerios discussed the current political climate with Mr. Mugabe, according to a UN spokesperson. He also held talks with Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi and he is expected to meet with leaders of other political parties and stakeholders during the remainder of his visit.

In the run-off race, scheduled for 27 June, Mr. Mugabe will face Morgan Tsvangirai, a candidate from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), after the two men polled the highest number of votes in the first round.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour expressed shock late last month at reports that many MDC activists have been killed or injured in recent weeks and that human rights defenders and staff with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have also been harassed.

UN humanitarian officials have also called on Zimbabwean authorities to rescind a decision to suspend all field operations by NGO aid groups.