Empresas y finanzas

UN envoy meets with Mugabe

By Nelson Banya

HARARE (Reuters) - A United Nations envoy met ZimbabweanPresident Robert Mugabe on Tuesday to discuss the politicalcrisis and the violence marring campaigning for this month'spresidential election run-off.

The visit of Assistant Secretary-General for PoliticalAffairs Haile Menkerios is the first by a senior U.N. officialfor three years and comes at a time of growing internationalpressure on Mugabe over the June 27 vote.

"He met the president to discuss the technical requirementsfor holding the election, to see what the U.N. can do to helpbuild capacity for a free and fair election," a U.N. officialsaid.

Mugabe, 84, faces the Movement for Democratic Change's(MDC) Morgan Tsvangirai in the election. The opposition leaderwon the first round in March, but without enough votes tosecure an outright victory, official results showed.

Mugabe has ruled since independence from Britain in 1980and is fighting to keep power despite a desperate economiccrisis that has brought hyperinflation and food shortages anddriven millions of Zimbabweans to seek work abroad.

Tsvangirai, Mugabe's Western critics and human right groupsaccuse the veteran leader of orchestrating a violent campaignto intimidate MDC supporters and leaders ahead of the election.

A Zimbabwe High Court judge dismissed an application torelease MDC Secretary-General Tendai Biti after police failedto bring him to court to face a treason charge. Biti wasarrested at Harare airport on Thursday as he returned home.

"I am not satisfied that the application has demonstratedthat what he is calling continued detention is unlawful," judgeSamuel Kudya said.

Prosecutors said they were now ready to bring him to courton Wednesday.

"STEP DOWN"

Tsvangirai has been detained and released repeatedly duringthe election campaign. The MDC says at least 66 oppositionactivists have been killed by militia from Mugabe's ZANU-PFsince the March elections.

Mugabe blames the opposition for the violence, which hascaused concern in the region, whose leaders fear theconsequences of a meltdown in Zimbabwe.

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who has been sharplycritical of Mugabe, said in Washington that a free and fairelection was impossible while Mugabe controlled the electoralprocess and Tsvangirai was in and out of jail.

The international community should insist that Mugabe stepdown, Odinga said, adding that the situation was anembarrassment to the continent's efforts to promote democracy.

Namibian Prime Minister Nahas Angula also voiced concernand said southern African countries would double the number ofobservers monitoring the run-off compared with the first round.

"There should be observers everywhere in Zimbabwe," Angulatold reporters in Helsinki.

The head of the Pan African Parliament observer mission,Marwick Khumalo, said the group had heard "horrendous" reportsof violence, in contrast to the run-up to the March election.

"It is unfortunate that violence has come up in thismanner. Instead of focusing on the smoothness of the electoralprocess as happened in March, violence has taken over," he toldreporters.

Britain and the United States urged Mugabe this week toallow a broader international observer mission. Monitors fromcountries critical of Mugabe have been banned from observingthe election.

Mugabe threatened on Monday to arrest MDC leaders over theviolence, and has vowed the opposition party will never ruleZimbabwe. He has said his supporters are ready to take up armsto prevent Zimbabwe from falling under the control of thecountry's white minority and Western powers.

A government minister dismissed speculation the electionmight be cancelled to avoid the risk of a Tsvangirai win.

"The run-off is going to take place on the 27th of June, sofocus on that and the results coming immediately after thatdate," Emmerson Mnangagwa, who heads the rural housing andsocial amenities ministry, told a news conference in Maputo.

(Additional reporting by Daniel Wallis in Nairobi, CharlesMangwiro in Maputo, Tarmo Virki in Helsinki and LesleyWroughton in Washington; Writing by Gordon Bell and Paul Simao,editing by Tim Pearce)

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