European Union leaders have threatened Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe with more sanctions amid reports of escalating violence against the opposition before next week's presidential election.
Is that tough enough? EU leaders pour over a statement on Zimbabwe at a Brussels summit
EU leaders meeting at the end of a two-day summit in Brussels adopted a statement warning Zimbabwe of further sanctions one week before the country holds a runoff presidential election marred by widespread violations.
"The European Council reiterates its readiness to take additional measures against those responsible for violence," the statement said.
Britain leads calls for tough measures
The document did not specify what the additional measures would be, but British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said it could include more targeted sanctions against members of President Robert Mugabe's regime.
Mugabe has blamed EU sanctions for Zimbabwe's economic woes
Britain has been heading calls for the EU to get tough on Mugabe who is accused of violating human rights and of ordering the harassment of opposition supporters.
"Mugabe's increasingly desperate and isolated regime has unleashed still more violence," Brown told a news conference. "This is a brazen and obscene abuse of power by a criminal cabal."
EU leaders also "regretted" Zimbabwe's rejection of its offer to provide election monitors and called on the Southern Africa Development Community and the African Union to "deploy a significant number of election monitors as soon as possible and to ensure their continued presence until the electoral process is completed and results officially declared."
"The European Council remains deeply concerned by the situation in Zimbabwe and reiterates the need for the upcoming second round of presidential elections on June 27 to be held in a peaceful, free and fair environment in accordance with international norms and standards," EU leaders said.
Opposition supporters killed
The threat came as Zimbabwe's main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) candidate Morgan Tsvangirai was said to be considering pulling out of the June 27 runoff because of escalating violence against his supporters by followers of President Mugabe.
The MDC says at least 70 of its supporters have been killed in recent weeks and 25,000 forced from their homes in a state-sponsored campaign of violence. One of its top leaders, Tendai Biti, has also been charged with treason and subversion. The charges carry a possible death sentence.
Morgan Tsvangirai is mulling pulling out of the poll
MDC rallies have also been disrupted and Tsvangirai briefly detained by police on several occasions.
The EU already has an arms embargo against Zimbabwe and has placed travel bans on and frozen the assets of President Mugabe and other senior government and ruling Zanu-PF party officials.
Mugabe blames the sanctions for plunging Zimbabwe into economic instability.
African nations rebuke Mugabe
In an unusual move, this week Tanzania, Swaziland and Angola which are members of the South African Development Community and form a committe entrusted with regioanl peace and security sharply rebuked Mugabe for the continued violence in Zimbabwe and the intimidation of opposition politicians.
"There is every sign that these elections will never be free nor fair," Tanzania's Foreign Minister, Bernard Membe said at a news conference in Dar es Salaam. "We have told the government of Zimbabwe to stop the violence. People of Zimbabwe are hurting and it pains us." Tanzania holds the rotating chairmanship of the African Union, the main African intergovernmental organization.
Mugabe however said remained defiant, saying he won't retire until he is sure that "the land is truly and safely in the hands of the black majority," state media reported Friday.
The state-run daily Herald newspaper quoted Mugabe in indirect speech as saying that "he had to ensure the legacy of returning land stolen by the British settlers to its rightful owners -- the black people -- before entertaining any thoughts of relinquishing power."