US to raise attack on diplomats at UN Security Council


Johannesburg/Washington : The US Thursday blasted as “outrageous” and “unacceptable” an attack in Zimbabwe on a convoy of US and British diplomats by a group of police, soldiers and militia and vowed to raise the issue at the UN Security Council.

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“It is outrageous. It is unacceptable. And while this immediate incident has been resolved, it will not be forgotten,” US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

McCormack said the US government had “protested vigorously” to the Zimbabwean government. “And we intend to raise this issue today in the Security Council.”

McCormack said five US and two Zimbabwean employees of the US embassy in Harare were travelling in a convoy along with a group of British diplomats when the two cars were stopped by a “combination of Zimbabwean army, intelligence, as well as retired military forces.

“One of our drivers, locally employed staff, was beaten by the crowd of 40 people,” said McCormack, who said the embassy had informed the Foreign Affairs ministry beforehand of the visit.

All the diplomats and local staff were released after around five hours following mediation by Zimbabwe’s foreign ministry representatives.

The diplomatic vehicles were halted at a roadblock about 60 km from Harare, on their way back from visiting the Bindura area about 80 km northeast of the city.

“They (the attackers) were brandishing weapons and shouting at the party that they were trying to ‘carry out regime change’ against Mugabe,” a diplomatic source in Harare said.

The vehicles’ path was blocked by a trap of spikes and armed men slashed the US vehicle’s tyres, the source added.

US Ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee told CNN the attackers had threatened to torch the cars with the passengers inside unless they got out of the vehicles.

When the US embassy sent a second vehicle to assist the group that vehicle was also detained, said McCormack.

Zimbabwe’s police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena on Thursday claimed police had tried to protect the diplomats from “a mob.”

“It is a serious incident and one we have to take seriously,” British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said.

Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Britain had been summoned to the Foreign Office to “explain what happened.”

“Intimidation must not become the order of the day in Zimbabwe before the run-off,” said Miliband. The world was watching Zimbabwe, he added.

The incident is the second time since May 13 that Zimbabwe security forces have detained Western diplomats investigating reports of violence by supporters of President Robert Mugabe against supporters of Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

The MDC says over 60 of its supporters have been killed in pro-Mugabe militia attacks since March 29 elections, in which the MDC inflicted its first ever defeat on Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party.

Mugabe, who is still locked in a bitter battle with Tsvangirai for the presidency after neither won an outright majority in the March voting, has recently intensified his anti-British and anti-US rhetoric, threatening to expel McGee for supporting the MDC.

The state has also ratcheted up pressure on the MDC, detaining Tsvangirai for around nine hours Wednesday for questioning before releasing him without charge.

Tsvangirai was released after South African President Thabo Mbeki intervened on his behalf, Mbeki’s office said Thursday.

“Upon being informed by the MDC of the arrest of its leader, Mr Morgan Tsvangarai, in Lupane, Zimbabwe yesterday, SADC (Southern African Development Community) Facilitator, President Thabo Mbeki, immediately contacted the government of the Republic of Zimbabwe to ascertain the circumstances of the arrest,” the statement said.

Mbeki, whose mediation the MDC has criticized as biased in favour of Mugabe, had also urged the government “to do everything possible” to ensure the election was free and fair,” the statement added.