Zimbabwe should not hold its presidential run-off election on Friday as the result would not be credible, the UN secretary-general has said.
Ban Ki-moon said on Monday he would "strongly discourage" holding such a vote it would only "deepen the divisions" within the country.
Speaking in New York, Ban also said he "understood" why Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), had pulled out of the election against Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean president.
The UN Security Council is meeting to discuss the situation in the country, with Western powers strongly pushing for a council statement of condemnation over the violence.
Ban's comments also come shortly after the Dutch foreign ministry said that Tsvangirai had sought refuge in its embassy in Harare shortly after a police raid on the MDC's headquarters on Monday.
|Tsvangirai sought refuge at the
Dutch embassy [AFP]
More than 60 people were detained during the operation, including those said to have been victims of politically motivated violence, Nelson Chamisa, an MDC spokesman, said.
The MDC says that at least 80 of its supporters have been killed by Zanu-PF supporters and 200,000 others have been displaced amid what it calls a campaign designed to intimidate people into voting for Mugabe.
Tendai Biti, the secretary-general of the MDC party, is also in prison facing charges of treason, which the MDC says are politically motivated.
Tsvangirai won the first round of the presidential election on March 29, however he failed to gain the outright majority needed to avoid a presidential run-off.
However, Augustin Chihuri, Zimbabwe's police commissioner, said neither Tsvangirai nor his party had come to police to report any threats and that police were not seeking to detain the politician.
"Mr Morgan Tsvangirai is under no threat at all from Zimbabweans and he
should cast away these delusions,'' Chihuri said at a news conference in Harare on Monday night.
"Zimbabwe is a peaceful country and this will remain so."
Bright Matonga, Zimbabwe's deputy informaiton minister, told Al Jazeera that the claims of violence were unfounded.
"We've made it very clear that we have taken a tough stance on the causes of violence," he said.
"Mr Tsvangirai has said in the past that his life was in danger, but he has come back to Zimbabwe, and continued his campaign efforts. Nothing has happened to him, and yet he persists with these claim that he's not safe here."'Too much violence'
In his comments on Monday, Ban called Zimbabwe the greatest strategic challenge to security in southern Africa.
He said he agreed with the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) that "the campaign of threats and intimidation" in the run-up to the vote "goes against the spirit of democracy".
|Ban said there was "too much violence and too much intimidation" for polls [AP]
"There has been too much violence and too much intimidation ... a vote held in these conditions would have no legitimacy," he said.
International criticism of events in Zimbabwe has been growing, with Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, saying earlier on Monday that the pre-election violence "reinforces ... that it's impossible for there to be a free, fair or peaceful election in Zimbabwe".
"The Mugabe regime cannot be considered legitimate in the absence of a run-off," she said in a statement.
Earlier, Britain accused Mugabe and his ruling Zanu-PF party of using violence to remain president.
"A government which violates the constitution in Zimbabwe ... cannot be held as the legitimate representative of the Zimbabwean people," David Miliband, the UK foreign secretary, said.
MDC poll boycott
Monday's raid on the MDC headquarters, carried out by at least 10 officers in riot gear, came a day after Tsvangirai announced he would boycott a presidential run-off election against Mugabe.
Tsvangirai said he would not contest the run-off vote hours after his party's main campaign rally was stopped on Sunday.
Thousands of soldiers, police officers and loyalists of Mugabe's Zanu-PF blockaded the site to prevent people from gathering for the rally.
"We can't ask the people to cast their vote on June 27 when that vote will cost their lives. We will no longer participate in this violent sham of an election," he said.
Tsvangirai has said that he is prepared to negotiate with the governing Zanu-PF if pre-election violence is halted.
"We are prepared to negotiate with Zanu-PF, but of course it is important that certain principles must be accepted before the negotiation takes place," he said.
"For instance one of the pre-conditions is that the violence against the people must stop."
Thabo Mbeki, the South African president who is also the SADC negotiator for Zimbabwe, has called for Mugabe and Tsvangirai to talk.
"I would hope that that leadership would still be open to a process which would result in them coming to some agreement about what happens to their country," Mbeki was quoted by the SAPA news agency as saying.