The Security Council on Thursday delayed a vote on UN sanctions against Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe as the Harare government and its opposition resumed South African-mediated talks.
Vietnam’s UN ambassador Le Luong Minh, who chairs the council this month, told reporters that the United States, which drafted the sanctions resolution, had so far made no attempt to push for a Thursday vote.
The US delegation had hoped to have a vote late Wednesday on the text, which would slap for an assets freeze and a travel ban on Mugabe and 13 of his cronies, as well as an arms embargo.
“There was a request to put to the vote that resolution yesterday. But the request was canceled,” Minh said.
He said Vietnam and other opponents of the draft, which is backed by Washington’s European allies, instead wanted to extend support to the ongoing South African-mediated talks between Zimbabwe’s ruling party and opposition in Pretoria.
“We have been seeing efforts under way by the African Union and the (14-nation) SADC (Southern African Development Community) and we think those efforts should be supported,” Minh said.
In Washington, a senior State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, cited procedural objections raised by veto-wielding members Russia and China to having a vote late Wednesday.
The official added that consultations were under way to determine whether a vote could be held Friday but cautioned: “I never put a timeline on this.”
“We have the nine votes (required for adoption of the draft), but we need to know where Russia and China are,” a Western diplomat told AFP here, alluding to a possible use of the veto.
“They are asking for more time, so the vote’s been pushed back to tomorrow,” the diplomat added.
In Pretoria, Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) held talks Thursday for the first time since Mugabe won the June 27, one-man runoff election and widely seen as lacking legitimacy.
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who won the first round of the presidential balloting last March but boycotted last month’s runoff, confirmed in a statement that the MDC would set pre-conditions for further talks at the Pretoria meeting.
These include an immediate halt to violence, the release of more than 1,500 political prisoners, the swearing in of MPs and an expanded mediation team to include an African Union permanent envoy.
Tuesday, US Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad said he believed he had the nine votes needed for passage provided there is no veto from any of the five permanent members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.
The US draft provides for an assets freeze and a travel ban on Mugabe and 13 of his cronies as well as an arms embargo on the Harare regime in protest at the June 27 runoff which was seen by the UN as “flawed” and lacking legitimacy.
South Africa, the lead mediator in Zimbabwe’s election crisis on behalf of the SADC, opposes sanctions, arguing that they would “complicate the situation.”
Russia, China, Vietnam, Libya and Indonesia have also raised objections, with Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin warning the sponsors that rushing a vote could have “unpredictable” consequences.
Thursday, UN chief Ban Ki-moon would not comment on whether or not sanctions should be imposed on the Mugabe regime.
“That should be determined by the members of the Security Council,” he told a press conference.
He expressed hope that Zimbabwe’s rival parties “would be able to come out with some mutually acceptable political solution whereby we can bring and see peace and stability and the humanitarian situation into normalcy.
The US draft would also demand that the Harare government “begin without delay a substantive dialogue between the parties with the aim of arriving at a peaceful solution that reflects the will of the Zimbabwean people as expressed by the March 29 (first-round presidential) elections.”
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai won the first round but fell short of a majority. He pulled out of the run-off citing a campaign of violence and intimidation.
The US draft resolution would direct UN chief Ban Ki-moon to appoint “an individual of international standing and expertise to serve as his special representative … who would support the negotiation process between the political parties in Zimbabwe.”
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