South Africa Snubs U.S. Effort to Condemn Mugabe By NEIL MacFARQUHAR and CELIA W. DUGGER Published: June 20, 2008 The foreign minister of Burkina Faso, Djibril Yipene Bassole, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice led a meeting at the United Nations on the violence in Zimbabwe before its elections UNITED NATIONS South Africa snubbed an American effort to present a unified front condemning the Zimbabwe government for fomenting pre-election violence, sending a low-level representative to a discussion on the issue Thursday led by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her counterpart from Burkina Faso. The foreign minister of Burkina Faso, Djibril Yipene Bassole, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice led a meeting at the United Nations on the violence in Zimbabwe before its elections. Ms. Rice had called for the meeting with African nations and Security Council members on the sidelines of a ministerial session that unanimously passed an American-sponsored resolution to declare rape and sexual violence a weapon of war. But after Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, South Africas minister of foreign affairs, delivered her speech, she remained in the Security Council chambers while various other ministers and ambassadors descended two stories to the 45-minute discussion on Zimbabwe. South Africa sent its deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, but diplomats in the meeting said he arrived late and did not speak. Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo, South Africas representative to the United Nations, noted that the foreign minister was here to discuss sexual violence and not Zimbabwe. What slight? he asked. She got a letter from Secretary Rice saying come and join me at the meeting on sexual exploitation. That is what she did. After the Zimbabwe discussion, Ms. Rice said the participants wanted to send a strong message that what is going on in Zimbabwe is simply unacceptable. Djibril Yipene Bassole, Burkina Fasos foreign minister, said that African nations were concerned about both the violence leading up to the elections and the fallout. Africa does not need such an image, he said. Diplomats in the meeting said the representatives of various African nations, including Tanzania, Morocco and Kenya, all voiced support for bringing increased pressure on Zimbabwe to allow fair elections to proceed in the June 27 run-off vote for president though the Burkina Faso minister said it was premature to consider sanctions against Zimbabwe. The criticism was echoed by other African officials on Thursday. Earlier in the day, a group of government ministers from southern Africa bluntly criticized President Robert Mugabe for the unchecked political violence in the country, saying there was every sign that next weeks presidential run-off election will never be free nor fair. Zimbabwes neighbors, who rarely criticize Mr. Mugabe publicly, voiced their increasing impatience with his government just a day after President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, the regional mediator, met with Mr. Mugabe and the opposition standard-bearer, Morgan Tsvangirai, in the latest effort to ease tensions before the runoff. The Tanzanian foreign minister, Bernard Membe, said at a news conference in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzanias commercial hub, that he and his colleagues would urge their presidents to do something urgently so that we can save Zimbabwe, Reuters reported. Mr. Membes statements were remarkable because of Tanzanias long history of support for Mr. Mugabe in Zimbabwes liberation struggle. Tanzania is also the current chair of the African Union, the continents highest representative body. The situation in Zimbabwe seems increasingly dire. Amnesty International reported Thursday that a dozen bodies of tortured civilians had been found, and that witnessed described soldiers threatening villagers with guns while instructing them to vote for Mr. Mugabe. Beyond that, the opposition party said Thursday that four activists had been killed after being abducted near the capital, Harare, and that the homes of three opposition figures in the same area had been firebombed. The latest four fatalities, included in Amnesty Internationals daily count for Thursday, bring to more than 70 the number of people killed since the first round of voting in March, according to the opposition. Western diplomats here have been repeatedly frustrated by South Africas using its two-year seat on the Security Council to deflect and dilute attempts to criticize Zimbabwe, even wrestling to keep the issue off the agenda altogether, and often joined by some half-dozen allies including China, Indonesia and Russia. Opponents of Security Council action sometimes question if the situation in Zimbabwe rises to the level of a threat to international peace and security, which defines the mandate of the Council, Western diplomats say. But Liu Zhenmin, Chinas deputy permanent representative, denied that his country opposed discussing Zimbabwe, while Ambassador R. M. Marty Natalegawa of Indonesia stressed that his country was not backing Mr. Mugabes government by opposing the idea. The United States has met such reluctance to discussing the issue next week that it may take the rare step of forcing a vote just to get Zimbabwe on the agenda, one diplomat here said. Security Council members are expected to hear from Haile Menkerios, an envoy dispatched by the secretary general to Zimbabwe, before considering any further steps. Neil MacFarquhar reported from the United Nations, and Celia W. Dugger from Johannesburg.