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UN rights chief tells Mugabe to ensure free elections

UN rights chief President Robert Mugabe to ensure that the future elections will be 'free and fair, and free from violence' after the 90-minute meeting with the Zimbabwean President in the capital Harare

AFP, Wednesday 23 May 2012
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, left, meets Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe at State House in Harare, Wednesday, May 23, 2012. (Photo: AP)

UN rights chief Navi Pillay told veteran Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe in talks Wednesday to ensure fair and violence-free elections when the country finally votes to pick a new leader.

Pillay is in Zimbabwe for a five-day visit at the invitation of Mugabe's government.

"I also urged him to ensure that the future elections will be free and fair, and free from violence," Pillay said after the 90-minute meeting with Mugabe at State House, in the capital Harare.

Deadly violence engulfed the last presidential election four years ago.

In a speech marking the country's 32nd independence anniversary last month Mugabe urged Zimbabweans to shun violence ahead of polls whose date is not year set, but which he insists be held this year.

"I commended the president for making a call that there should be no violence in the future elections and urged him to continue to make such calls," Pillay said Wednesday.

Mugabe did not speak to reporters after the talks.

But Pillay said their meeting was "very important", adding that the 88-year-old leader had recounted "the past history of Zimbabwe and attributed some of the current problems to the past."

Pillay also met earlier in the week with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who joined the long-ruling Mugabe in a unity government formed in 2009 to halt the election-linked bloodshed that killed more than 200 of the premier's supporters.

Mugabe, 88, has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980.

The unity government is meant to clear the way to new elections, but preparations are lagging years behind and no date has been set.

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