June 27, 2008 / 6:37 PM / 11 years ago

World has right to intervene in Zimbabwe: Tutu

Archbishop Desmond Tutu gestures as he delivers a speech accepting the Lincoln Leadership Prize during a reception in Chicago, Illinois May 13, 2008. REUTERS/Frank Polich

LONDON (Reuters) - The world has the right to override Zimbabwe’s sovereignty to intervene in its crisis and should consider banning flights as a step to bring pressure, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said on Friday.

The South African Nobel Peace Prize laureate spoke in an interview broadcast after President Robert Mugabe defied world opinion to hold an election in which he was the only candidate. The opposition withdrew over attacks on its supporters.

Tutu told Britain’s Channel 4 television that the “international community has the right now to override the sovereignty argument of the country.

“A government has the obligation to protect its citizens. If it will not protect them then or it is unable to do so then the international community knows now that it has an instrument to intervene to ensure that a situation does not deteriorate further,” he said.

Tutu has said he favors the deployment of international peacekeepers to Zimbabwe, suffering economic collapse after 28 years of Mugabe’s rule as well as the political crisis.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who won a first round against Mugabe on March 29, pulled out of Friday’s vote after at least 90 of his supporters were killed in attacks blamed on Mugabe’s ruling party.

Tutu said African rulers should declare Mugabe illegitimate and impose a blockade of landlocked Zimbabwe, including a flight ban.

“One of quickest ways is to stop Air Zimbabwe from flying over any of its neighbors so that it will be properly grounded ... Mugabe and his sidekicks would not be able to — as they are now — escape the rigors of their own policies,” Tutu said.

Western countries have imposed limited sanctions to target Mugabe and his close allies, but there has been no discussion of a broader embargo that could deepen the suffering ordinary Zimbabweans.

Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Giles Elgood

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