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Europe

G8 Promises Steps Against Zimbabwe But Divisions Remain

The world's leading industrial nations, meeting in Japan, have pledged additional measures against President Robert Mugabe after last month's "sham" election. But not all G8 members were reading from the same script.

A woman carrying her son casts her vote at a polling station in Harare

Most of the world's nations have rejected the vote as rigged

The G8 leaders had spent two days trying to negotiate a common position on Zimbabwe after the June 27 re-election of President Robert Mugabe in a vote from which opposition leader Morgan Tsvangarai pulled out, citing violence against his supporters.

In a joint statement, the G8 leaders condemned the way the election had proceeded.

"We do not accept the legitimacy of any government that does not reflect the will of the Zimbabwean people," the G8 leaders said.

"We deplore the fact that the Zimbabwean authorities pressed ahead with the presidential election despite the absence of appropriate conditions for free and fair voting as a result of their systematic violence, obstruction and intimidation," they added.

The aim, the leaders said, would be to punish those responsible for voter intimidation in the Southern African nation.

"We will take further steps, inter alia introducing financial and other measures against those individuals responsible for the violence," the statement read.

The G8 also recommended that the United Nations appoint a special envoy to report on Zimbabwe's humanitarian and human rights situation.

Not far enough

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe

Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, whose country has led international criticism of Mugabe, was at pains to claim that the G8 declaration was appropriately vigorous.

"This is the strongest possible statement," Brown told reporters. "It shows the unanimity of the whole international community, reflecting the outrage people feel about the violence and the intimidation and the illegitimate holding of power by the Mugabe government."

But such words of praise could not conceal the fact that the statement, which stopped short of using the term sanctions, is less robust than most G8 members would have liked.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have both indicated that they would support a UN resolution imposing sanctions on Mugabe -- as has the United States.

But they were thwarted by opposition from Russia.

"We don't believe that in this case sanctions are an effective tool to improve the situation," Russian official Alexander Pankin told DPA news agency.

Negotiations -- or not

Hundreds of Movement For Democratic Change supporters

Zimbabwean opposition supporters are calling on the West for help

Instead of sanctions, Russia has promoted negotiations as means of solving the crisis in Zimbabwe -- a course of action also favored by the African Union.

One of Zimbabwe's state-controlled newspapers reported on Tuesday, July 8 that Mugabe and Tsvangarai would hold talks under the mediation of South African President Thabo Mbeki.

But a statement issued by Tsvangarai's Movement for Democratic Change party dismissed that report, calling it "a figment of the dictatorship's imagination."

It also said the MDC had no plans to negotiate with Mugabe.

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