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    Russia hits back at U.S., U.K. criticism over Zimbabwe vote

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    Russia strongly rejects claims by the U.S. and the U.K. that it is an unreliable G8 partner following Moscow's veto of sanctions against Zimbabwe's regime, the Foreign Ministry said on Saturday.

    MOSCOW, July 12 (RIA Novosti) - Russia strongly rejects claims by the U.S. and the U.K. that it is an unreliable G8 partner following Moscow's veto of sanctions against Zimbabwe's regime, the Foreign Ministry said on Saturday.

    Russia and China used their UN Security Council vetoes on Friday to block Western nations' proposals for sanctions against the Zimbabwe regime, which has been widely condemned over recent election violence.

    "Following the use by Russia and China of their vetoes on this American draft, representatives of the United States and Great Britain said that our vote was tantamount to a breach on the part of Russia of agreements on Zimbabwe reached at the recent G8 summit in Toyako [on the Japanese island of Hokkiado], and that this throws into doubt Russia's reliability as a G8 partner," Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said.

    The U.S. envoy to the UN, Zalmay Khalilzad, had said Russia was reneging on its position expressed at the G8 summit, which "raises doubts about its reliability as a G8 partner."

    U.K. envoy Sir John Sawers echoed Khalilzad's comments.

    British Foreign Secretary David Miliband later said: "It'll appear incomprehensible to the people of Zimbabwe that Russia, which committed itself at the G8 to take further steps including introducing financial and other sanctions, should stand in the way of Security Council action."

    Nesterenko said: "We consider such statements to be unacceptable. The American and British UN envoys are at best entirely uninformed on the discussions between G8 leaders in Toyako, and at worst, are deliberately distorting the facts."

    The United States had proposed an arms embargo on Zimbabwe, and a travel ban along with financial restrictions on Mugabe and his closest allies.

    Explaining the Russian position, the country's UN envoy, Vitaly Churkin, said earlier: "The proposed draft is nothing other than interference by the Security Council in the internal affairs of a state, which contravenes the UN statutes."

    China said the sanctions could undermine talks between Zimbabwe's leadership and opposition and "complicate" the conflict.

    South Africa, Libya and Vietnam also voted against the U.S. proposals, while Indonesia abstained.

    In the lead-up to the June presidential election runoff in Zimbabwe, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai dropped out of the race, citing death threats and beatings of supporters, and took refuge in the Dutch Embassy in Harare.

    Tsvangirai had won the first election round in March, but without a sufficiently large majority to secure victory. Mugabe campaigned in the re-run as the sole candidate.

    The opposition said on Friday that a total of 113 of its activists have been killed in election violence since March.

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