HARARE, Zimbabwe — President Robert Mugabe faced deeper international isolation Wednesday, with African states demanding that a discredited runoff election be postponed and antiapartheid icon Nelson Mandela rebuking the Zimbabwe leader for the first time.
Hundreds of beaten, newly homeless Zimbabweans amassed Wednesday outside the South African Embassy in a bid for help during the electoral crisis gripping the nation. "The situation is absolutely desperate," said an opposition official trying to find shelter for 80 women and children at the site.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai called Wednesday for talks on power sharing and for the deployment of thousands of African Union peacekeeping troops to bring order to a nation ravaged by months of political violence.
Regional heads of state from southern Africa met in Swaziland and said Friday's runoff should be postponed until conditions permitted a free and fair vote. President Bush said the runoff election appears to be a "sham."
In London, Mandela made a carefully worded but pointed attack on Mugabe, saying there has been a "tragic failure of leadership in our neighboring Zimbabwe." The speech, at a fundraiser that included Prime Minister Gordon Brown and former President Bill Clinton, was the first time the former South African president has spoken publicly about the political crisis.
Tsvangirai made his call for peacekeepers in a commentary published Wednesday in the Guardian, a British newspaper. Asked about it at a news conference later in Harare, Tsvangirai said: "What do you do when you don't have guns and the people are being brutalized out there?" He stressed he was not calling for military intervention.
Deploying peacekeepers requires an international consensus, and efforts can be blocked by governments expected to host contingents. South African Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad noted that efforts to deploy an African Union-U.N. peacekeeping force for Sudan's Darfur have been stalled.
The international community, though, has been considering, and taking, other actions on Zimbabwe. Queen Elizabeth II stripped Mugabe of his knighthood. The queen's move put him in the company of the late Romanian leader Nicolae Ceausescu, who had his title taken away in 1989 at the height of his nation's revolution.