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16.03.2007 International

State of emergency in Zimbabwe?

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Story from Sapa-dpa/AP

Zimbabwe's respected Financial Gazette weekly on Thursday quoted sources as saying President Robert Mugabe"s politburo was considering a state of emergency.

The politburo, which is the highest decision-making body of the ruling Zanu-PF party, met on Wednesday and discussed the possibility of imposing a state of emergency in response to "rising anger” over the treatment of opposition Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai, unnamed sources told the Gazette.

There has been no confirmation from the government.

Public anger is rising after Tsvangirai was admitted to intensive care in hospital on Tuesday with head wounds.

Three police officers have been reported injured in a suspected revenge attack on a police station near Glen View township.

Petrol bombs and tear gas were also thrown at a police station in the central town of Gweru Wednesday, it has emerged.

Police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena told the Financial Gazette: “This has ceased to be normal political violence. We are now seeing the activity of organised militia.”

Mr Mugabe has come under international condemnation for Sunday's attacks on the opposition. In Britain, William Hague of the opposition Conservative Party urged his government and EU states to “rigorously enforce” economic sanctions and travel bans on Zimbabwe.

US State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said Wednesday that the United States “has in place a number of sanctions against those responsible for repressing democratic efforts in Zimbabwe.”

“I think in terms of what we have done to date, they haven't been very specific and focused on individuals who have been associated with some of these repressive policies,” Casey said. “I think we'd have to take — and we will have to take a look at what is currently on the table and what other steps might be taken. There's always other tools in the toolbox though, and I certainly expect we'll look at those.”

Casey said Barry Lowenkron, Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, planned to discuss the situation in Zimbabwe on Thursday with African Union officials in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Casey said Barry Lowenkron, Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, planned to discuss the situation in Zimbabwe on Thursday with African Union officials in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Ghanaian President John Kufuor, who holds the rotating AU chairmanship, said Wednesday that the organisation found the turmoil in Zimbabwe “very embarrassing” and was doing all it could to help.

“I know personally that presidents like (South Africa's Thabo) Mbeki tried desperately to exercise some influence for the better,” he told an audience at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London.

“Please don't think that Africa is not concerned. Africa is very much concerned. What can Mbeki as a man do? Are you proposing that Africa compose an expedition team to march on Zimbabwe and oppose? It does not happen like that. We are in our various ways trying very hard.”

The Brussels-based International Crisis Group said earlier this month that deep divisions within Mugabe's party appeared to have “energised” Zimbabweans to take to the streets, and independent human rights groups have reported discontent in the poorly paid security forces.

Meanwhile, Tsvangirai was “in great pain” but in stable condition on Thursday, a party spokesperson said.

MDC spokesperson Eliphas Mukonoweshuro told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa Tsvangirai was waiting for the results of a brain scan and was in stable condition in a Harare clinic.

Doctors have already said they suspect the MDC leader may have a fractured skull from a beating by state agents following his arrest at an aborted prayer rally on Sunday.

Mukonoweshuro also said skirmishes were ongoing in western suburbs of Harare near the site of Sunday's rally.

“The skirmishes in the western suburbs haven't stopped. There are running battles between police and activists,” he said.