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Tsvangirai Pullout a Blow to Zimbabwe, Germany Says

Zimbabwe opposition leader Tsvangirai's withdrawal from the run-off election against President Mugabe is a serious blow to the country and the entire region, German Foreign Minister Steinmeier said Monday.

Morgan Tsvangirai at a press conference

Morgan Tsvangirai says he is pulling out of the runoff because of mounting violence

In a statement, Steinmeier said he was deeply concerned at the background to Morgan Tsvangirai's decision not to contest the vote because of state-sponsored violence against his supporters.

"Where people have to fear for their lives because they vote for the opposition then democracy is a farce," the minister said.

"I appeal to those in power in Zimbabwe to stop using violence and intimidation as a political instrument and create conditions in which human rights are respected and economic progress is possible," he added.

Germany's development minister was more critical, accusing Africa of reacting "too late and too indecisively" to events in Zimbabwe.

Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul said on Monday it is time for the world to "answer Zimbabwe's cry for help" after opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai pulled out of the country's violence-wracked presidential runoff Sunday.

She said in a statement Monday that the Southern African Development Community and the African Union "have dealt too late and too indecisively with the escalating situation."

Mounting violence

Earlier Sunday, Tsvangirai pulled out of Zimbabwe's election run-off, saying violence had made a fair vote impossible, in a move that virtually hands victory to President Robert Mugabe.

Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (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.

Robert Mugabe

Mugabe is accused of orchestrating violent attacks against opposition supporters

Tsvangirai made his announcement after hundreds of stick-wielding youths gathered at the venue of his party's main pre-election rally, and following a meeting of his Movement for Democratic Change to decide whether to withdraw from the election.

Up to 1,000 youths gathered at the rally grounds in the capital Harare before moving on to the nearby headquarters of the ruling ZANU-PF party, witnesses and AFP journalists said.

Police officers and election observers had taken up positions nearby.

Tsvangirai beat Mugabe in the March first round of the vote -- and the ruling party lost its parliamentary majority for the first time since independence.

But official results showed the MDC leader failed to achieve an outright majority of votes needed to become head of state without a run-off.

EU calls vote a parody"

The EU's chief diplomat, Javier Solana, has expressed sympathy for the decision of Zimbabwe's opposition not to take part in the second round of the country's presidential elections, calling the vote a "parody."

The "systematic campaign of violence, interference and intimidation by the Zimbabwean authorities" made clear the reasoning behind the opposition move, Solana said in a statement from Brussels.

"Under these conditions, the elections would have been a parody of democracy that is unworthy of today's Africa," he added.

Solana also praised the African Union and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) for "having attempted to bring Zimbabwe to reason."

US, Britain to raise concerns with UN

Zimbabwe's violent electoral crisis has sparked international condemnation with both London and Washington saying they were prepared to raise their concerns in the United Nations Security Council on Monday.

Protests against Mugabe outside the Zimbabwean embassy in London

Protests against Mugabe outside the Zimbabwean embassy in London

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Zimbabwe would lack "legitimate" leadership if Mugabe stayed in charge, and accused him of using violence to cling to power.

"A government which violates the constitution in Zimbabwe cannot be held as the legitimate representative of the Zimbabwean people," Miliband said, referring to Mugabe's slowness to hold a run-off after the March 29 election.

Miliband described the violence as "state-sponsored on a very large scale with one very clear motivation" -- to keep Mugabe in power."

White House spokesman Carlton Carroll urged Zimbabwe to halt violence following reports that Mugabe loyalists had beaten, burned and killed opposition supporters.

"The government of Zimbabwe and its thugs must stop the violence now," Carroll said in a statement. "The Mugabe regime reinforces its illegitimacy every day. The senseless acts of violence against the opposition as well as election monitors must stop."

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