'Free and fair polls unlikely in Zimbabwe'

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown yesterday said free and fair elections in Zimbabwe appear unlikely in the June 27 presidential run-off.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown yesterday said free and fair elections in Zimbabwe appear unlikely in the June 27 presidential run-off.

Brown told lawmakers at his weekly House of Commons questions session that President Robert Mugabe's government had killed, beaten and intimidated opposition supporters in recent weeks, and that too few independent observers have been allowed to monitor the election campaign.

"These are not circumstances in which a free and fair election can take place," he said.

Mugabe will face MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai in the run-off after coming in second to Tsvangirai in the first round in March. He has accused the opposition of organising arson and violence.

But, independent human rights observers say Mugabe's police, soldiers and party militants are behind widespread violence aimed at ensuring Mugabe wins.

Brown called for Zimbabwean authorities to release Tendai Biti, secretary-general of Tsvangirai's party. Police said Biti will be charged with treason, which can carry the death penalty.

The British leader said he has held talks on Zimbabwe in recent days with Jacob Zuma, president of the ANC, and Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, whose country heads the African Union. - Sapa-AP

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