UN meets on Robert Mugabe

Geneva – The UN Security Council on Monday kicked off closed-door ministerial talks on Zimbabwe but a diplomat said there was no consensus on a text to censure President Robert Mugabe in the face of South African opposition.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon was briefing the 15-member council on the country’s woes, including a political stalemate, economic meltdown and a deadly cholera epidemic, at a meeting attended by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and US British Foreign Minister David Miliband.

US diplomats had hoped to have the council adopt a non-binding statement condemning Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe for his failure to protect his people from the cholera outbreak, but a Western diplomat said the plan was blocked by South Africa.

France’s UN Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert said that he did not think the council would be able to agree on a consensus text.

"But we will come back to it later," he added. "Mr Mugabe has failed to protect his people. We plan to say it very clearly."

Mugabe blamed

The United States blames Mugabe for Zimbabwe’s political deadlock, economic meltdown and humanitarian crisis, including the cholera outbreak which has claimed nearly 1 000 lives.

State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack said Washington has been talking to Zimbabwe’s powerful neighbour South Africa and other Security Council members about how to "start a process that will bring an end to the tragedy that is unfolding in Zimbabwe".

Countries with leverage should use it to press for change in Zimbabwe, McCormack said.

A senior US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, proposed on Thursday that Zimbabwe’s neighbours, particularly South Africa, close their borders with the country.

Zimbabwean Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu told the state-owned Herald newspaper on Monday it was "improper" for western countries to try and put Zimbabwe on the UN Security Council agenda.

– SAPA