- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 29, 2008

HARARE, Zimbabwe | Zimbabwe came under threat of further sanctions Saturday as President Bush said the U.S. is working on new ways to punish longtime leader Robert Mugabe and his allies after the widely denounced presidential runoff election.

Earlier Saturday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the U.S. plans to introduce a U.N. resolution as early as next week seeking tough measures against Zimbabwe.

Mr. Mugabe was the only candidate in Friday’s election, which was boycotted by the opposition, and is expected to be declared winner as early as Sunday.

“We will press for strong action by the United Nations, including an arms embargo on Zimbabwe and travel ban on regime officials,” Mr. Bush said in a statement issued while he spent the weekend at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland.

The European Union said it would not rule out taking sanctions against “those responsible for the tragic events of recent months,” according to an EU presidency statement.

Friday’s runoff election was widely condemned by African and other world leaders. Observers said the few Zimbabweans who went to the polls only did so out of fear.

According to human rights groups, at least 86 people died and some 200,000 were forced from their homes. Most of the violence was blamed on police, soldiers and Mugabe militants.

“The international community has condemned the Mugabe regime’s ruthless campaign of politically motivated violence and intimidation with a strong and unified voice that makes clear that yesterday’s election was in no way free and fair,” Mr. Bush said.

The U.S. already has financial and travel penalties in place against more than 170 citizens and entities with ties to Mr. Mugabe, White House spokesman Emily Lawrimore said. The Bush administration is considering punishing the government of Zimbabwe, as well as further restricting the travel and financial activities of Mugabe supporters, she said.

In Zimbabwe, deputy chief election officer Utloile Silaigwana announced on state television that counting had finished in most wards and the electoral commission was waiting for results from a few outstanding wards.

Results would still need to be verified by the national command center before being released, but an announcement was expected as early as Saturday - contrasting sharply with the weeks it took before Zimbabweans learned opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai won the first round.

Mr. Tsvangirai came first in a field of four in the first round in March, but the official count didn’t give him the margin needed to avoid a runoff against Mr. Mugabe, who finished second. Mr. Tsvangirai pulled out of the race after the onslaught of violence.

Earlier, Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, a senior ruling-party member, said the party was expecting results Saturday or Sunday.

“From the information filtering in, it looks like a clear win for our president,” he said.

An announcement of the result is expected before Mr. Mugabe leaves for Monday’s African Union summit in Egypt, so he can attend as a re-elected president.

On Friday, residents said they were forced to vote by threats of violence or arson from Mugabe supporters who searched for anyone without an ink-stained finger - the telltale sign they had cast a ballot.

“There was a lot of intimidation for people to vote,” said Marwick Khumalo, head of the Pan-African Parliament observer mission. “You can tell people just wanted to get the indelible ink to protect themselves from the hooligans.”

The Herald, Zimbabwe’s state-run newspaper, reported Saturday that a massive voter turnout was “a slap in the face for detractors who claimed this was a ‘Mugabe election’ that did not have the blessing of the generality of Zimbabweans.”

But Mr. Khumalo said the turnout was “very, very low.” He also said many of those who did vote cast their ballots for Mr. Tsvangirai.

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