UN expresses concern as opposition pulls out of Zimbabwe polls

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United Nations, Jun 23 (UNI) UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed concern over the political impasse in Zimbabwe, calling the withdrawal of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai from next week's presidential run-off election a ''deeply distressing'' development that does not bode well for democracy in the southern African nation.

''The Secretary-General deeply regrets that despite the repeated appeals of the international community, the Zimbabwe government has failed to put in place the conditions necessary for free and fair run-off elections,'' a statement, issued yesterday at the UN headquarters in New York, said.

''The circumstances that led to the withdrawal of Mr Tsvangirai from the presidential elections yesterday represents a deeply distressing development that does not bode well for the future of democracy in Zimbabwe,'' it noted.

Zimbabwe has been beset by deadly political violence since the first round of the presidential election on March 29.

Mr Ban had been calling for an immediate end to the hostilities, cautioning that the ongoing violence threatened the credibility of the June 27 run-off, in which Mr Tsvangirai, of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), was set to face President Robert Mugabe.

''The campaign of violence and intimidation that has marred this election has done a great disservice to the people of the country and must end immediately,'' the statement stressed, adding that the UN stands ready to work ''urgently'' with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union to help resolve this political impasse.

UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Haile Menkerios, who was sent by Mr Ban to Zimbabwe last week in an attempt to reduce political tensions ahead of the run-off, remained in the region to assist.

UNI XC SKB HS1552

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