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Pressure Mounts on Harare to Halt Escalating Violence Ahead of Election

Diplomatic pressure is mounting on Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe to level the playing filed ahead of the June 27 presidential election. Mr Mugabe has also vowed never to hand over power voluntarily even if he loses the election.

South African deputy foreign minister Aziz Pahad said aides to president Thabo Mbeki are urging Harare to release detained Movement for Democratic Change secretary general Tendai Biti, still being kept under wraps by police following his arrest last week at Harare airport.

The Mbeki facilitation team is also urging Harare to cease almost routinely detaining opposition leader and presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai. Australia and Britain have threatened to tighten sanctions against Harare in the event Tsvangirai wins the run-off and Mr. Mugabe refuses to step down.

The president declared this weekend that the opposition would never be allowed to come to power, threatening “war” if he loses.political players in Harare. Meanwhile Harare awaited the arrival of an envoy dispatched by united nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon.

UN assistant secretary general for Political Affairs Haile Menkerios was expected late Monday. Diplomatic sources say Menkerios will focus on the deepening political crisis and the upcoming election aiming to convince Harare to accept the entry of international election monitors.

South African political analyst Herman Hanekom told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that gunboat diplomacy is in order as Mr. Mugabe has been impervious to quiet diplomacy.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...