U-Turn Denied on Zimbabwe

President Dmitry Medvedev made no commitment at last week's Group of Eight summit to back UN sanctions against Zimbabwe, so it cannot be accused of a U-turn, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak said Monday.

Moscow signaled, however, that it was concerned about the political crisis in Zimbabwe, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urging authorities there to prosecute those responsible for violence against opposition activists.

Russia and China last week vetoed a Western-backed UN Security Council resolution to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe. The United States said Moscow had gone back on an agreement days earlier at the G8 summit in Japan to support punitive measures.

"There was indeed a discussion on Zimbabwe at the summit," Kislyak said at a news conference.

"During the discussion, ideas were put forward that the UN Security Council should adopt a resolution on sanctions. The sanctions were not named. There were such ideas. We listened to them and explained why that is not right.

"This does not mean that we do not have concerns about the situation in Zimbabwe. We have different methods for addressing it."

Medvedev said last Tuesday that he would support "financial and other measures" but stressed that they might not include sanctions.

At a final G8 news conference Wednesday, he said no decisions had been reached about how to act on Zimbabwe. "The G8 expressed its concern," he said. "But there were no concrete decisions about how the United Nations should proceed."

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement Monday that Lavrov had spoken by telephone to Zimbabwean Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi.

"We underlined the need for all participants in the internal Zimbabwean dialogue to show the most constructive approach possible in the interests of ensuring stability and national accord," the statement said. "It is also important to prosecute the culprits in the violence in June and to take measures to prevent a repeat of this in the future."