The United Nations Security Council could impose sanctions against Robert Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe by the end of the week, the US ambassador to the world body said on Tuesday.
By George Parker in Toyako and Harvey Morris at the United Nations
The US believes a majority of Security Council members support sanctions, including measures targeted at leaders of the Zimbabwe regime, but has not ruled out a veto by Russia or China.
However, at the Group of Eight summit in Japan on Tuesday Dmitry Medvedev, Russian president, backed financial and other measures against Zimbabwe’s leadership.
Zalmay Khalilzad, US envoy to the UN, said the possibility of a Russian or Chinese veto would kill the sanctions package. But he said closed-door discussions on Tuesday indicated a clear majority of the 15-member council favoured action.
The US needs nine votes for its resolution to pass. “The numbers are there, barring a veto,” Mr Khalilzad said.
The G8 statement has been interpreted as a significant shift in Russia’s position that could tip the balance in favour of sanctions. Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s UN envoy, added a note of caution, however, when he said the statement had deliberately avoided any reference to the Security Council.
The sanctions package would include an arms embargo and impose a travel ban on the 12 senior leaders of the regime, headed by Mr Mugabe, and the freezing of their assets.
Mr Churkin said some elements of the US proposal were “excessive” and the outcome of a vote was “unpredictable”.
The G8 statement also called for Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, to send a special representative to Harare to try to secure a political settlement, after Mr Mugabe declared himself the winner of a run-off election the opposition refused to contest in an atmosphere of violence and intimidation.
An African delegation to the G8 was told that the crisis in Zimbabwe was harming the whole continent and damaging attempts by the west to help development through a $25bn (€16bn, £12.6bn) injection of aid by 2010.
George W. Bush, US president, Angela Merkel, German chancellor, and Nicolas Sarkozy, French president, were all forceful in insisting that the UN had to get involved and that Zimbabwe was an international crisis.
Gordon Brown, British prime minister, showed fellow leaders a picture of the mutilated body of a driver for the Zimbabwe opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change, allegedly the victim of an attack by Mr Mugabe’s supporters.