Mugabe Ignores Calls To Postpone Election

HARARE, Zimbabwe -- Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Tuesday defied mounting pressure from both inside and outside Africa to call off Friday's presidential election, saying he had a legal obligation to go ahead.

Both Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade and South African ruling ANC leader Jacob Zuma said the presidential runoff must be postponed after opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew from the vote and fled to the Dutch Embassy in Harare.

The UN Security Council issued an unprecedented and unanimous condemnation of violence against Tsvangirai's supporters. It was supported by South Africa, China and Russia who have previously blocked such moves.

But Mugabe shrugged off the pressure and the U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe said the world could not stop the runoff election.

"The West can scream all it wants. Elections will go on. Those who want to recognize our legitimacy can do so, those who don't want, should not," Mugabe said at a rally in western Zimbabwe.

International concern is mounting over Zimbabwe's political turmoil and economic meltdown, blamed by the West and the opposition on Mugabe, who has held uninterrupted power for 28 years.

Wade said in a statement that Tsvangirai took refuge after being tipped off that soldiers were on the way to his house. "He is only safe because, alerted by friends, he left in a hurry a few minutes earlier," Wade said.

Mugabe denied that Tsvangirai was in danger. "Tsvangirai is frightened. He has run to seek refuge at the Dutch Embassy. What for? These are voters, they will do you no harm. Political harm, yes, because they will vote against you. No one wants to kill Tsvangirai."

Zuma, who rivals President Thabo Mbeki as South Africa's most powerful man, called for urgent intervention by the United Nations and regional body SADC, or Southern African Development Community, saying the situation in Zimbabwe was out of control.

"The ANC [African National Congress] says the runoff is no longer a solution, you need a political arrangement first ... then elections down the line," Zuma said.

Mugabe said he would not refuse to negotiate with Tsvangirai but the vote must go ahead. "For now, there is only one thing for us to accomplish. ... It's the legal process on the 27th of June," the 84-year-old president said.

Tsvangirai spent a second night in the Dutch Embassy on Monday. He told Dutch Radio 1 on Tuesday that his refuge was temporary and the government had assured the Dutch ambassador that he would not be hurt. Tsvangirai has not claimed asylum.

He said he could leave in the next few days.

A nonbinding statement by the Security Council in New York condemned "the campaign of violence against the political opposition ... which has resulted in the killing of scores of opposition activists and other Zimbabweans and the beating and displacement of thousands of people, including many women and children."