UNITED NATIONS — Russia and China vetoed U.S.-proposed sanctions on Zimbabwe’s leaders Friday, the global community’s latest attempt to take action against an authoritarian regime widely criticized for a violent and one-sided presidential election.

Western powers mustered nine votes, the minimum needed to gain approval in the 15-nation council. But the resolution pushed by the Bush administration failed because of the action by two of the five veto-wielding permanent members.

The other three nations with veto power — the U.S., Britain and France — argued that sanctions were needed to respond to the government-backed violence and intimidation against opponents of President Robert Mugabe during Zimbabwe’s first round presidential vote in March and runoff in late June.

Mugabe’s government has denied responsibility for the bloodshed surrounding the vote, which he won in the runoff after his sole rival — opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai — dropped out because of attacks on his followers. Tsvangirai’s party reported Friday that at least 113 of its members were killed in political violence since March.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad harshly criticized the vetoes, saying “China and Russia have stood with Mugabe against the people of Zimbabwe.”

The action put an end for now to efforts to apply more international pressure on Mugabe’s regime and force it to share power with Tsvangirai.

It follows a recent summit where African Union leaders adopted a resolution calling for dialogue in Zimbabwe, but did not directly criticize Mugabe or the runoff vote. The AU leaders said they were “deeply concerned” about the situation but their only promised action was be to support “the will” for a unity government.

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