ZIMBABWE has barred United Nations (UN) envoy from visiting the country to assess progress on the ongoing power-sharing talks between Zanu PF and opposition MDC to end the current political impasse.
Harare’s blocking of UN assistant secretary-general for political affairs Haile Menkerios, recently appointed as part of South African President Thabo Mbeki’s three-man “reference group” on the talks, is likely to heighten tension between Harare and the world body.
UN Resident Representative in Harare Agostinho Zacarias is heading to Pretoria today for an emergency meeting with Menkerios on the potentially explosive situation.
The UN is likely to tackle Harare head-on over the issue.
The resultant diplomatic row could give ammunition to the United States and Britain in their bid to impose UN-backed sanctions on Mugabe and his key cronies over recent disputed elections, violence and killings.
The western nations, together with the European Union, recently stepped up sanctions on Harare, although they failed at the UN level after Russia and China vetoed a US draft resolution on sanctions.
The resolution, calling for an arms embargo, and financial and travel restrictions on Mugabe and 13 other regime officials, was backed by nine nations but foundered on the vetoes of the two permanent members.
The arms embargo would have affected Russian and Chinese arms exporters.
Diplomatic sources said Menkerios – who was due in Harare today – was told by Zimbabwean authorities that he was “not welcome” since the talks “reference group” worked with Mbeki, not Mugabe. They said Harare told him that even if he came no official would meet him.
By Dumisani Muleya