CRAWFORD, Texas (AFP) — The White House called on Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and his supporters to end violence against their political opposition as the country heads into a presidential run-off election.
"This violence and intimidation needs to stop. Mugabe and his supporters need to refrain from this sort of activity against those who are supporting the opposition," said US national security council spokesman Gordon Johndroe.
He spoke as pressure mounted on Zimbabwe to admit foreign observers to oversee a presidential election run-off amid fresh claims pro-government militias were instilling terror in the countryside.
Zimbabwe, mired in a severe economic crisis, has also been locked in a political struggle since March 29 presidential and legislation elections that called into question Mugabe's nearly three-decade rule.
Morgan Tsvangirai, who leads the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, believes he beat Mugabe in the first round.
But the country's electoral authorities, after a one-month delay, issued results giving the opposition leader 47.9 percent of the votes to Mugabe's 43.2 percent, without the majority needed to avoid a run off.
Washington considers the official results suspect, and the electoral commission has yet to set a date for the second round.
"The people of Zimbabwe some time ago voted for change. The will of the people of Zimbabwe should be respected," said Johndroe, who also urged regional leaders to take a more active role in defusing the crisis.
"We would urge all the leaders in the region to play a constructive role so that the people of Zimbabwe can get their country back on not only the path to democracy but back on a sustainable economic future so they can support themselves," he said.
Johndroe noted that Zambia President Levy Mwanawasa and other regional leaders "have been very much engaged to try and resolve this electoral crisis there. I understand they'll be meeting soon with the South Africans."
As Zimbabwe's opposition alleged 30 supporters had now been killed and a union chief said 40,000 farmworkers and their dependents made homeless, authorities played down the levels of violence.
Tsvangirai has argued his rival is trying to spread fear in the population to ensure victory in a run-off.
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