Zimbabwe is back on the United Nations radar

In a speech on human rights he said that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had told him in a phone call that a meeting could be held as early as Monday to discuss the deteriorating situation there.

Mr Brown said: "My conversation with Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday night led us to believe that we can have a meeting of the Security Council next week on Monday to discuss what further measures the international community can take. This is where we can make a difference in defending and advancing human rights in difficult circumstances."

The Prime Minister said that Zimbabwe, which has been hit with a outbreak of cholera, faced a "humanitarian emergency of colossal proportions".

Mr Brown said: "In Zimbabwe we are witnessing a humanitarian emergency of colossal proportions. They need help urgently and our disagreement with Mugabe will not stand in our way. So we are increasing our humanitarian aid and calling on others to do the same.

In the Commons, Foreign Secretary David Miliband came under cross party pressure to take tougher action against Zimbabwe’s ruling regime, including possible military force.

Tory former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind led the call, suggesting the humanitarian disaster caused by the cholera epidemic could warrant an oil and electricity embargo – or even military intervention.

But Mr Miliband said Robert Mugabe and his cronies would be the last to suffer from a fuel embargo and warned that precedents for military action were not "auspicious". AP