The International Crisis Group warned Monday that Zimbabwe's political crisis is deepening and urged other leaders to step up pressure on President Robert Mugabe.
"The international response has been mixed and inadequate" since Mr. Mugabe claimed victory in the March presidential election, ICG said in a report.
"The ruling ZANU-PF party and the government are systematically using violence to intimidate the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and civil society in order to punish and compel them to accept the results" of the vote, it said. "As the opposition considers mass protests, the prospect of serious internal conflict is becoming imminent, with grave implications for the stability of the wider southern African region."
The report called on Presidents Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria to take a more assertive stance in pressuring Mugabe to return to talks with MDC on finding a peaceful solution to the impasse.
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai has rejected Mugabe's reelection, saying widespread political violence and fraud at the polls had compromised the returns.
Most independent observers shared that assessment, and the European Union, the United States, and other Western nations imposed sanctions on Mugabe and his inner circle.
The ICG report urged EU and US officials to expand the sanctions to include directors and senior officials in businesses affiliated with the ZANU-PF. It also said the EU and US governments should investigate assets held by ZANU-PF officials and use aid money to strengthen links among independent unions, civil society, and the political opposition.
ICG said the Group of Eight (G8) the world's seven most industrialized nations plus Russia should link progress on the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) initiative to stronger efforts by African governments to resolve Zimbabwe's crisis. That initiative will be a major theme at next month's G8 summit in Canada. Under the scheme, participating African nations promise good governance in return for investment and development aid.