- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 13, 2008

LONDON | British Prime Minster Gordon Brown will press the European Union to take harsher action against Zimbabwe, after Russia and China vetoed proposed new sanctions at the U.N. Security Council, his office said Saturday.

Mr. Brown plans to discuss EU action against President Robert Mugabe’s regime when the British leader meets with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana at a summit starting Sunday in Paris.

The three will be among 43 leaders of European, Middle Eastern and North African nations at the summit.

Mr. Brown’s office said he would propose new EU travel bans on members of Mr. Mugabe’s government and action against companies owned by Mugabe allies.

Russia and China on Friday vetoed a proposal from the United States and Britain for a new U.N. arms embargo and other punitive measures against Zimbabwe’s president and top aides. Western powers mustered nine votes, the minimum needed to gain approval in the 15-nation council, but the action failed because of the vetoes by two of the five permanent members.

The vetoes came as a surprise and disappointment for Mr. Brown, who thought he had secured sufficient international backing for U.N. sanctions against Mr. Mugabe during last week’s summit of leaders from the Group of Eight industrialized nations, said a Brown spokesman, speaking on the condition of anonymity in line with government policy.

“It was a high-stakes gamble, which earlier in the week looked promising because the Russian president had made commitments at the G-8 to go along with financial sanctions,” said Mark Malloch-Brown, Britain’s minister for African, Asia and the United Nations.

Zimbabwe’s opposition party said Friday that at least 113 of its members have been killed in political violence since March.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Britain would continue to press Mr. Mugabe over government-backed violence and intimidation of the opposition during Zimbabwe’s first-round presidential vote in March and runoff ballot in June.

“Mugabe is more isolated within his own country than ever before,” Mr. Miliband told British Broadcasting Corp. radio. “We have got to make sure, though, that the final hold that he has on power, which is at a barrel of a gun, is as short as possible because the misery for those people is absolutely overwhelming.”

Meanwhile, South African President Thabo Mbeki continued to mediate talks between Mr. Mugabe and the opposition led by Morgan Tsvangirai.

South African officials say the goal of the talks is to form an inclusive government in Zimbabwe. Both Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Tsvangirai say they are willing to share power, but they differ on who should lead.

Mr. Mugabe’s ZANU-PF wants Mr. Mugabe at the head of any coalition government, something the opposition and Mr. Mugabe’s critics in the West have rejected. Mr. Tsvangirai bases his claim to leadership on the first round of presidential voting in March, in which he beat Mr. Mugabe and two other candidates, but did not win the 50 percent plus one vote necessary to avoid a runoff against second-place finisher Mr. Mugabe.

Mr. Tsvangirai, who withdrew from the June runoff because of a campaign of violence against his supporters, has accused Mr. Mbeki of bias in favor of Mr. Mugabe, and called for a second mediator to be brought in.

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