UNITED NATIONS – The United States began rallying the U.N. Security Council on Monday to impose sanctions on President Robert Mugabe and his close supporters if he doesn’t reconsider his disputed claim on Zimbabwe’s presidency.
The U.S. circulated a draft resolution asking the Security Council to reject Mugabe’s claim of victory in the election Friday in which he was the sole candidate, to freeze the assets and bar travel of officials responsible for election violence, and to halt arms shipments to Zimbabwe.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad challenged Security Council members to reject Mugabe’s power grab and “stop allowing him to thumb his nose at the Security Council.”
The draft resolution depicts the flow of refugees fleeing Zimbabwe’s violence and hunger into neighboring nations as a regional security issue, not just an internal election matter.
“It not only affects the region, but the credibility of the council,” Khalilzad said. “If there is no response, what does that say about the council?”
Amid resistance from China and others, council diplomats hoped that African leaders meeting in Egypt this week would persuade Mugabe to compromise and that sanctions would not be necessary.
China, Russia, South Africa and other council members said they were reluctant to intervene in Zimbabwe’s domestic affairs.
“This is an African problem,” Chinese Deputy Ambassador Liu Zhenmin told reporters.
British Ambassador John Sawers said if African leaders meeting this week in Egypt did not persuade Mugabe to negotiate with the opposition, then Britain would strengthen its own sanctions against Zimbabwe and urge the European Union to join it.
Britain already has travel and investment bans on the top 130 officials in Mugabe’s regime.
The United States, Australia and Canada also have imposed measures against the country, intended to pressure its leaders but not its people, who are already suffering from skyrocketing prices and the government’s suspension of international aid.
Mugabe flew from Zimbabwe on Monday and landed in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik to see whether his fellow African leaders would confirm or condemn his election victory.
Speaking at the opening of a two-day African Union summit, U.N. Deputy Secretary General Asha-Rose Migiro said the world must “stand by the people of Zimbabwe who are facing an extremely grim crisis. This is the single greatest challenge to regional stability in Southern Africa.”
Migiro urged talks between Zimbabwe’s political parties that would be backed by the 53-member nation union.
The summit ends today, when the union is expected to issue a statement on Zimbabwe.