June 22 (Reuters) - Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai pulled out of a run-off election against President Robert Mugabe on Sunday, saying a free and fair poll was impossible in the current climate of violence.
Following is international reaction to the decision:
"The government of Zimbabwe and its thugs must stop the violence now," said Carlton Carroll, a White House assistant press secretary in a statement.
"All parties should be able to participate in a legitimate election and not be subject to the intimidation and unlawful actions of the government, armed militias and so-called war veterans," added Carroll.
"From our point of view it is still necessary that the political leadership of Zimbabwe should get together and find a solution to the challenges that face Zimbabwe," President Thabo Mbeki told South African public broadcaster SABC.
"I would hope that that leadership would be open to a process which would result in them coming to some agreement about what happens to their country. And that most certainly is what we would try to encourage".
EUROPEAN UNION (FOREIGN POLICY CHIEF SOLANA)
"Javier Solana...considers that the withdrawal of Mr. Morgan Tsvangirai...is understandable, given the unacceptable systematic campaign of violence, obstruction and intimidation lead by the Zimbabwean authorities, which has continued for several weeks," Solana’s office said in a statement.
"In these conditions, the elections have become a travesty of democracy. They are certainly not worthy of the African continent of today."
"Now we face a critical crisis of legitimacy because it’s clear that the only people with any shred of legitimacy are the people who won the March 29 first round and that was the opposition," Foreign Secretary David Miliband told reporters.
"We have reached an absolutely critical moment in the drive by the people of Zimbabwe to rid themselves of the tyrannical rule of Robert Mugabe."
"The French President (Nicolas Sarkozy) holds responsible the Zimbabwean authorities, which have deliberately chosen the path of violence to gag the people of Zimbabwe and prevent them from expressing themselves freely at the ballot box."
"... he (the French President) condemns the campaign of very serious acts of violence perpetrated by President Mugabe against Mr Tsvangirai, opposition supporters and the people of Zimbabwe."
"These violences constitute a blatant violation of democracy."
"(France) is ready to take, with its European Union partners, all necessary measures against those responsible for this electoral masquerade..."
"There are a lot of unconstitutional things that have been done in this process (election campaign). It will, therefore, not be out of fashion to postpone this election to avert a catastrophe in this region," Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa told reporters in Lusaka.
"The events in Zimbabwe are moving too fast. Tsvangirai has announced he is pulling out, and it will be scandalous for SADC to remain silent," said Mwanawasa, who currently chairs regional bloc SADC (Southern African Development Community). "What is happening in Zimbabwe is, of course, of tremendous embarrassment to all of us, and I hope sooner than later we can find a solution," Mwanawasa said. (Editing by Keith Weir)