Pressure mounts on Mugabe over Zimbabwe poll

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Pressure mounts on Mugabe over Zimbabwe poll

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From Africa and beyond, pressure is piling on Zimbabwe’s leader Robert Mugabe to call off Friday’s presidential run-off election. So far, international condemnation of violence against the opposition has fallen on deaf ears, with Mugabe vowing to extend his 28 years in power.

Now his opposition rival Morgan Tsvangirai has issued an ultimate deadline, warning that the time for talking will be over if the poll goes ahead. His message to Mugabe is: negotiate now or risk being shunned as an illegitimate leader.

Tsvangirai has withdrawn from the contest, saying his supporters would risk their lives by voting.

One of Africa’s and the world’s most revered figures, Nelson Mandela, publicly criticised Mugabe for the first time, during a speech in London.

“We watch with sadness the continuing tragedy in Darfur. Nearer to home, we have seen the outbreak of violence against fellow Africans in our own country and the tragic failure of leadership in our neighbouring Zimbabwe,” he said at a dinner marking his 90th birthday.

In the US, White House hopeful Barack Obama echoed President Bush’s condemnation of the election.

“Mugabe has run the economy into the ground. He has perpetrated extraordinary violence against his own people. What is remaining of this election is a complete and total sham,” he said.

Elsewhere, Southern African leaders have called for the postponement of the ballot, adding to a chorus of disapproval that Robert Mugabe seems determined to dismiss.