Top US envoy urges tougher stance on Zimbabwe's Mugabe

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AP Photo JOH102, JOH101

By ANGUS SHAW

Associated Press Writer

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) -- The top U.S. envoy for Africa urged the international community on Sunday to take a tougher stance against Zimbabwe's longtime leader Robert Mugabe.

Jendayi Frazer's comments came as Zimbabwe's electoral commission said it was getting closer to releasing the results of the presidential vote one month after the election.

Frazer said the most immediate priority was to halt increasing violence against opposition supporters, an apparent attempt to intimidate people ahead of a possible election runoff.

"There's no neutrality when people are being beaten," Frazer, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, said in an interview with The Associated Press in Zambia.

"When a government deploys its military, and its police, and its intelligence operatives ... then the international community has a responsibility to step in and to try to stop that government from beating its own population," she added.

She left open the possibility of supporting a national unity government -- an idea floated last week in a state-owned Zimbabwean newspaper -- but said the opposition should lead it.

"Any national unity government or inclusive government that comes about through negotiation has to reflect the population," Frazer said. "So we will wait to see."

Frazer is touring the region to press leaders to take a tougher position against Mugabe. She met Saturday night with Zambian President Levy Mwanwasa, current chairman of a southern African regional bloc and one of the area's more outspoken heads of state on the Zimbabwean turmoil.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai is believed to have won the presidential election, though not with enough votes to avoid a runoff. He has accused Mugabe of engineering the long delay -- and the campaign of intimidation and violence -- in a bid to hold onto power.

The electoral commission will invite Mugabe and Tsvangirai, or their polling agents, to a final "verification and collation exercise" on the tallies on Monday, according to the Sunday Mail newspaper, a government mouthpiece.

Judge George Chiweshe, head of the electoral commission, said the candidates or their representatives will have a chance to examine the tallies before the results are released. Leaving room for a further delay, he said election authorities agreed that each party would collate its own figures during the final verification stage.

However, the electoral commission confirmed that the opposition would hold a majority in parliament for the first time since Zimbabwe gained independence from Britain in 1980.

Chiweshe said recounts of 18 of 23 contested seats had left the outcome of the vote unchanged, according to the state-run Sunday Mail. Even if Mugabe's party were to win the remaining five, it would not be enough to keep his majority in parliament. Chiweshe said the final recounts should be complete by Monday.

Original results from the March 29 elections showed opposition parties winning 110 seats to the ruling ZANU-PF's 97. Three vacant seats are awaiting by-elections after the deaths of candidates.

Political tensions have mounted since security forces raided the offices of the opposition and the independent observers Friday, seizing materials related to the vote count.

More than 200 people were arrested in the raid on opposition headquarters, police said. Many were seeking refuge in Harare after being attacked by ruling party loyalists in the countryside.

Exiled Zimbabwean human rights activists said Sunday that they had set up a Truth and Justice Commission to "identify perpetrators and seek legal redress for the victims of crimes against humanity and other serious crimes in Zimbabwe."

The commission said it has gathered the names of more than 200 from the ruling party and the armed forces accused of unleashing "unleashed terror and tyranny against civilians" in recent months.

It said the names formed part of a criminal dossier being compiled to support prosecutions in South Africa, where those responsible for crimes against humanity can be apprehended and prosecuted. Mugabe's name was not on the list, but some in his trusted inner circle were.

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Associated Press writers Joseph J. Schatz in Lusaka, Zambia, and Clare Nullis in Cape Town, South Africa, contributed to this report.