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Britain Says Russia UN Veto 'Incomprehensible'

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband
LONDON -- British Foreign Secretary David Miliband has said Russia's veto of a United Nations Security Council resolution to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe was "incomprehensible."

"I'm very disappointed that the U.N. Security Council should have failed to pass a strong and clear resolution on Zimbabwe," Miliband said in a statement on July 12.

"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."

"Nor will they understand the Chinese vote," Miliband said. Veto-holding China was also among five countries that opposed the U.S.-drafted text in the 15-nation council on July 11.

Nine countries voted for the resolution to impose an arms embargo on Zimbabwe and financial and travel restrictions on President Robert Mugabe and 13 other officials, and authorise a United Nations special envoy for the southern African nation. One country abstained from the vote.

The Group of Eight rich nations, which includes Britain and Russia, agreed on Tuesday to impose sanctions against Zimbabwe's leadership because of violence during the widely condemned re-election of President Robert Mugabe.

Britain's diplomatic relations with Russia have been strained since the 2006 poisoning in London of emigre and Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko.

Russia has refused to hand over the main suspect, Andrei Lugovoy, on the grounds that its constitution rules out extraditing its own citizens, and Moscow has emphatically denied state complicity.

Despite the diplomatic setback, Miliband insisted Britain would keep up pressure on Mugabe.

Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew from a June 27 presidential run-off poll, citing attacks on his supporters by pro-Mugabe militia.

The MDC and Western powers have branded Mugabe's landslide re-election a sham.

"We will continue to advocate intensified EU measures against Mugabe and his ruling clique. The U.N. still has a key role to play in supporting African efforts to bring an end to this crisis, and we will continue to press for the appointment of a U.N. envoy," Miliband said.

"A solution must be found that reflects the will of the Zimbabwean people, whose will continues to be so brutally denied."