The European Union and Group of Eight industrialized nations slammed Friday's one-man vote in Zimbabwe as a "sham" amid allegations of voter intimidation aimed at propping up the government of President Robert Mugabe.
The vote has been dogged by rigging allegations and voter intimidation
Western nations and the US, which chairs the UN Security Council until the end of next month, on Friday condemned the one-candidate presidential runoff in Zimbabwe, warning more serious steps could be taken against Mugabe's regime.
"Today's election is a sham. The election is hollow and its result will be equally hollow and meaningless," a European Commission spokeswoman said.
Mugabe, in power for 28 years, went ahead with the vote despite a wave of international condemnation after opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew because of state-backed violence against his supporters.
The 84-year-old Mugabe is the only candidate in Friday's vote.
"Exercise in mass intimidation"
Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says almost 90 of its supporters have been killed.
There were reports Friday of residents being forced to vote by roving gangs of government supporters searching for those without an ink-stained finger.
Residents of Mbare line up to cast their vote
Tsvangirai said voters were being ordered to record the serial numbers of their ballot papers to identify how they cast their ballots. Pro-Mugabe militias had threatened to kill anybody abstaining or voting for the opposition, he said.
Tsvangirai said at a press conference Friday the results of the vote would "reflect only the fear of the people:" He added: "What is happening today is not an election. It is an exercise in mass intimidation."
Ministers from the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized countries meeting in Kyoto on Friday also strongly condemned the one-man vote in Zimbabwe, saying they would not recognize any Mugabe government that emerged from the runoff vote.
"We will not accept the legitimacy of any government that does not reflect the will of the Zimbabwean people," Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the US said in a statement.
US threatens sanctions
"None of us believe that the quote-unquote election today represents the sort of contest that can bring credit to any country," British Foreign Secretary David Miliband told reporters.
"There is no legitimacy for a government claiming election on the basis of today's events because this was an election which was one sided in every aspect," he added.
Mugabe casting his vote in Harare
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the UN Security Council could consider sanctions against the regime.
"There was strong, strong sentiment in that room today that what is going on in Zimbabwe is simply unacceptable in the 21st century and should not be ignored by the international community," Rice told reporters.
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said his government would propose that EU ambassadors withdraw from Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe is also expected to dominate the agenda at a meeting of African Union foreign ministers at a summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.
A security committee of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) called earlier this week for the vote to be postponed, saying Mugabe's re-election could lack legitimacy.
Minister slams German paper firm
Separately, Germany's Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul on Friday pressed a Munich-based specialist paper firm to halt deliveries of banknote paper to Zimbabwe, saying it was helping to prop up the Mugabe government.
The company, Giesecke & Devrient (G&D), is under fire in the German media for continuing to trade with the ostracized regime.
A ministry spokesman said Wieczorek-Zeul had pointed out to the company it was signatory to a code of conduct that included a human rights clause.
A sign on a battered wall points the way to a polling station in the city of Bulawayo
A dozen human rights activists demonstrated in front of the company headquarters in Munich on Friday, holding up banners reading: "No cash for terror."
A G&D spokesman repeated Friday that it was company policy not to comment on individual clients. "We stick strictly to World Bank rules with all our deliveries," he said.
The spokesman said deliveries of banknotes went to central banks and not to governments.
The deliveries have been widely reported in the German and British press, along with allegations that Mugabe is keeping himself in power by literally printing money to pay his ministers and supporters.
G&D is reported to provide banknote paper to more than 100 countries and to be the largest printer of euro banknotes.