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Zimbabwe: UN envoy holds talks with regional leaders on political strife

Zimbabwe: UN envoy holds talks with regional leaders on political strife

Haile Menkerios (left) talking to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
A United Nations envoy is continuing to hold talks with Southern African leaders about the troubled political and humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe, where the run-off round of presidential elections is being held today despite international objections.

Haile Menkerios, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, held talks yesterday in Luanda with Angola's President José Edoardo dos Santos. Today he is expected to meet Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete in Dar-es-Salaam.

Mr. Menkerios is then slated to travel to Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, for the current African Union (AU) summit.

The diplomatic efforts are taking place as the run-off round of the presidential election is staged today in Zimbabwe, which has been beset by deadly unrest and deteriorating humanitarian conditions since the first round of elections was held on 29 March.

Violence and intimidation directed towards the opposition forces led to the withdrawal of Morgan Tsvangirai, the candidate of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), from today's run-off, in which he was set to face President Robert Mugabe.

Many MDC activists have reportedly been killed or injured in recent weeks and human rights defenders and staff with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have been harassed.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said this week that the run-off should have been postponed given the current circumstances, as a free and fair poll could not be held.

Describing the crisis as “a perversion of democracy,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour has also voiced deep concern and called for the perpetrators of political violence to be brought to account for their crimes.

Mr. Ban and Mr. Menkerios have said they will continue to work with the AU and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to ensure a satisfactory and non-violent resolution to the current crisis.

Meanwhile, Security Council President for June, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, told reporters that Council members viewed it as “a matter of deep regret” that today's run-off election went ahead despite the international calls for a postponement.