European countries have issued stern travel warnings advising their citizens against traveling to Zimbabwe as political tensions continue to mount amid a controversial presidential run-off poll.
It'll be a one-sided election
The Germany embassy in Harare this week advised German citizens still in the troubled southern African country to avoid joining public activities that might be considered political.
"We are telling our citizens to be cautious because there is a lot of violence going on around the country, but so far we have not recommended that anyone leave the country," said Hubertus Klink, deputy head of the Germany embassy in Harare, in a telephone interview from the Zimbabwean capital.
"Tourist trips must be put on hold and only necessary business trips undertaken because there are no signs that the violence will decrease," he added
Tsvangirai sought refuge in the Netherlands this week
In a symbolic move on Wednesday, Britain stripped incumbent Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe of his knighthood, which had been awarded by Queen Elizabeth II in 1994.
The British mission in Zimbabwe also issued travel warnings as violence mounted even after the withdrawal of opposition Movement for Democratic (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
"We are now advising against all but essential travel to Zimbabwe at this time due to the continuing tension surrounding the election and the deployment of uniformed forces (police and military) and war veterans across the country," read the statement.
African leaders meet without key mediator
Meanwhile southern African leaders met Wednesday for talks on the crisis in the Swaziland capital of Mbambane as Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe indicated he was open to negotiations with the opposition -- but only after this week's run-off election.
Mugabe has been accused of human rights abuses
The talks in Mbambane opened without South African President Thabo Mbeki, who was appointed mediator for Zimbabwe by the region last March after the savage beatings of opposition political party leaders in police custody.
Zimbabwe's political crisis deepened on Sunday after Tsvangirai announced he was pulling out of Friday's presidential run-off election, saying violence had made a fair vote impossible. Tsvangirai beat Mugabe in the first round of the election but did not get the majority required to officially take the presidency from his rival.
The UN Security Council has since condemned the violence in Zimbabwe while Britain, France and the United States have branded Mugabe's regime as "illegitimate."
Mugabe, 84, is accused by critics of driving the once model economy into ruin and trampling on human rights. The country has the world's highest inflation rate and is experiencing major food shortages.