Australia will challenge South Africa over its low-key criticism of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's "brutal" rule and said on Wednesday the time had come for all nations to adopt tougher sanctions against the regime.
Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said he would telephone his South African counterpart, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, to urge a stronger line from Africa's powerhouse, following criticism from other Zimbabwe neighbours in recent days.
"I will be urging...that South Africa take the same robust position that Zambia and Tanzania and Botswana have been taking in recent times," Smith told reporters in Canberra before taking his concerns to a meeting of G8 foreign ministers in Japan, of which Australia is not a member.
In a sign of growing African disquiet over Mugabe's rule, South Africa's ruling ANC party has delivered its toughest criticism yet of the regime, declaring it has been "riding roughshod" over Zimbabwe's democracy.
The rare but muted criticism followed the the decision by Zimbabwe leading opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai to pull out of a June 27 presidential vote due to fears of violence and seek refuge in the Dutch embassy.
The South African Development Community, the entire African Union and especially South Africa had to put pressure on Mugabe to step down, Smith said.
"The South African position to date has been that the best approach is through a political dialogue through Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai. Most others have frankly been very sceptical about the prospect of success in that area," he said.
Smith said he would like to see a world-wide travel ban imposed on Mugabe and associates, and would examine the worsening situation in the country with G8 foreign ministers including U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Kyoto.
Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu told Australian media that Mugabe -- a former friend of the outspoken Anglican archbishop -- had become a "Frankenstein" for his people.
"He has mutated into something that is quite unbelievable," Tutu told Australian Broadcasting Corp. television.