World

UN condemns Zimbabwe government as opposition leader seeks refuge

The UN Security Council condemned Zimbabwe's government on Monday, saying the political situation there has "made it impossible for a free and fair election to take place."

The United Nations Security Council issued a blunt condemnation of Zimbabwe's government on Monday, saying the political situation in the African country has "made it impossible for a free and fair election to take place."

The 15-member Security Council voted unanimously for the resolution which "condemns the campaign of violence against the political opposition ahead of the second round of presidential elections" this coming Friday.

Scores of opposition activists and other Zimbabweans have been killed.

The U.S., France and some other Western powers tried but failed to include language asserting that Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai should be considered the legitimate president, until another fair election can be held.

Tsvangirai takes refuge in Dutch Embassy

Earlier in the day, Tsvangirai took refuge in the Dutch Embassy in Harare following a police raid Monday on his party's headquarters, according to a spokesman from the Dutch Foreign Ministry.

Police raided the headquarters of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and took away dozens of supporters, a party spokesman said.

It was not clear how long Tsvangirai, who has been detained by authorities loyal to President Robert Mugabe numerous times in the past, intended to remain in the embassy building.

"He asked to come and stay because he was concerned about his safety," Dutch Foreign Ministry spokesman Rob Dekker said. 

Zimbabwe's police commissioner denied reports that Tsvangirai's safety was in danger.

"Mr. Morgan Tsvangirai is under no threat at all from Zimbabweans and he should cast away these delusions," Augustin Chihuri told a news conference in Harare.

"Zimbabwe is a peaceful country and this will remain so," Chihuri said, adding that neither Tsvangirai nor his party had reported any threats to police, and that police were not seeking the politician.

International criticism of Mugabe and his ruling party has been mounting since the Sunday, when Tsvangirai pulled out of the run-off vote, citing violence and intimidation.

MDC spokesman Nelson Chamis said police took away 60 people in the raid on Monday, many of them women and children who had fled political violence and were seeking refuge at the party's office in the capital, Harare.

Rice urges UN to act

Zimbabwean officials said the election will go ahead as scheduled and questioned Tsvangirai's withdrawal, saying he has yet to submit formal notice.

Tsvangirai won the first round of the presidential election on March 29, but did not secure an outright majority.

Independent human rights groups say 85 people have died and tens of thousands have been forced from their homes ahead of the second round of presidential voting, with most of them opposition supporters.

The government has repeatedly said that the opposition is to blame for the violence.

Tsvangirai complained that he was treated like a "common criminal" during the campaign, with several attempts to tour the country stymied by police at roadblocks.

Tendai Biti, the opposition party's second in command, was arrested within minutes of his return from South Africa last week and is being held on treason charges.

With files from the Associated Press