updated 7/11/2008 1:25:07 AM ET 2008-07-11T05:25:07

Zimbabwe warned the U.N. Security Council Thursday that the sanctions it is considering could push the African nation toward civil war.

Zimbabwe's U.N. mission also said in a letter to the council that the punitive measures proposed by the U.S. and Britain against President Robert Mugabe's government could turn Zimbabwe into another Somalia, a Horn of Africa nation where warring factions have clashed for the past 17 years.

The letter, which was released to the media, said the sanctions would lead to the removal of Zimbabwe's "effective government and, most probably, start a civil war."

The mission blamed Britain and the U.S., claiming they're obsessed with regime change and are "determined to ignore real, entrenched, fundamental and enduring issues that lie at the heart of Zimbabwe's internal politics."

Financial freeze and arms embargo?
Western powers are pushing for a vote this week on an arms embargo and financial freeze on Mugabe and top officials in his government in response to Mugabe's violence-marred re-election. The U.S. and France say they have the nine votes that are required for the 15-nation council to pass the resolution.

South Africa, a council member, has led the opposition to the sanctions, arguing it is not a threat to international peace and security, and therefore not a proper matter for the council to take up. The U.S., Britain and France say it is.

Russia has threatened to veto it, and China also has opposed sanctions; both have veto power on the council, like the U.S., Britain and France. But Russia and China also could let the sanctions resolution pass by abstaining from the vote.

Mugabe pushed ahead with the June 27 runoff despite the opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai pulling out of the race because of state-sponsored beating and killing of his followers.

The council has repeatedly chastised Mugabe's government, saying the violence made it impossible to hold a free and fair election. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has been deeply involved in trying to resolve the crisis, also strongly criticized Mugabe's regime.

Ban told reporters Thursday the issue of sanctions was a matter for the council to decide, but the election "has implications beyond Zimbabwe: it has credibility of democracy in the region and democracy in Africa as a whole."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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