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UN chief hits out at Zimbabwe vote

TOKYO, June 30  – UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Monday sharply criticised Zimbabwe’s violence-marred election, saying he considered the results giving President Robert Mugabe another term illegitimate.

Ban was in Tokyo on the first leg of an Asian tour in which the former South Korean diplomat was to discuss progress in the international drive to eliminate North Korea’s nuclear weapons.

His visit came as Mugabe was sworn in Sunday for another term in Zimbabwe, hours after the election commission declared he won more than 85 percent of the votes cast.

"The secretary-general has said repeatedly that conditions were not in place for a free and fair election and observers have confirmed this from the deeply flawed process," Ban spokeswoman Marie Okabe said in statement.

"The outcome did not reflect the true and genuine will of the Zimbabwean people or produce a legitimate result," the statement said.

Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, narrowly lost the first round amid public criticism of the dire economic conditions and hyperinflation in the African nation.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai pulled out of the run-off election, citing a campaign of violence against his supporters.

Ban "encourages efforts of the two sides to negotiate a political solution that would end violence and intimidation," the statement said, offering the UN’s services.

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Japan hesitated to support Ban before he was selected for the UN top spot in 2006 as South Korea, where many remain bitter over Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule, did not back Tokyo’s bid for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council.

Fukuda, a centrist commited to mending relations with Asian neighbours, was expected to take up Japan’s longstanding Security Council demand when he meets with Ban later in the day.

Ban was due to head Tuesday to China for talks on North Korea’s nuclear programme and other issues before going on to South Korea.

He will wind up his tour at the July 7-9 summit of the Group of Eight rich nations in the northern Japanese resort town of Toyako.

On a visit Sunday to the ancient Japanese capital of Kyoto, the namesake of the landmark environmental treaty, Ban urged Japan to play a larger role in the fight against climate change.

It is Ban’s first trip to Japan since he took over as secretary general last year, although he visited Tokyo shortly before his investiture in his previous job as South Korea’s foreign minister.

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