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Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday that it is “well past time” for Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe to leave office as evidenced by the nation’s calamitous cholera epidemic and health care crisis.

Rice said the country experienced “a sham election,” followed by a sham sharing of power. Speaking in the Danish capital Friday, she said the current outbreak of cholera in the country should be a sign to the international community that it is time to stand up to Mugabe.

“If this is not evidence to the international community to stand up for what is right, I don’t know what would be. And frankly the nations of the region have to do it,” she said. The nations in southern Africa have the most to lose and need to take the lead, she said.

Zimbabwe declared a national emergency over a cholera epidemic and the collapse of its health care system, and state media reported Thursday the government is seeking more international help to pay for food and drugs to combat the crisis.

“It’s well past time for Robert Mugabe to leave, that’s now obvious,” she said. “There has been a sham election, there was a sham power-sharing. We are now seeing the humanitarian toll.”

Rice said “we are seeing not only the political and economic toll that is being taken on the people of Zimbabwe but the toll in the humanitarian dimension as the cholera epidemic has broken out. It is time for the international nations to push Mr. Mugabe out.”

She said the United States “will always do anything and everything it can to help innocent people who are suffering. We are not going to deny assistance to people who are in need because of Mugabe.”

The U.S. Agency for International Development has said it would provide an additional $600,000 to help combat the cholera outbreak. This assistance is in addition to the $4 million water, sanitation, and hygiene emergency program USAID is already implementing in Zimbabwe.

The failure of the southern African nation’s health care system is one of the most devastating effects of the country’s overall economic collapse.

Facing the highest inflation in the world, Zimbabweans are struggling just to eat and find clean drinking water. The United Nations says the number of suspected cholera cases in Zimbabwe since August has climbed above 12,600, with 570 deaths, because of a lack of water treatment and broken sewage pipes. Besides shortages of food and other basics, even cash is scarce.

Cholera is an infectious intestinal disease that is contracted by consuming contaminated food or water. Its symptoms include severe diarrhea.

Rice’s comments on Zimbabwe came during an appearance with Denmark’s Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Rice is making a tour of various cities overseas as her tour in the job of secretary of state comes to a close.

Rice expressed “deep regret” for the deaths of two Danish soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan on Thursday, adding that nothing of value is won without sacrifice. “Afghanistan must never be allowed again to be a safe haven for terrorists,” Rice said. She said a review being done by the Bush administration and its NATO allies of the mission in Afghanistan is nearly complete.

“It is under way. It is, very frankly, almost completed,” she said. “It is being reviewed by the principals of the National Security Council and it is going to be discussed with our friends. And at that point I expect that some elements of it will be made public in some way.”

Some have called for more troops in Afghanistan, a sentiment backed Friday by Danish leader Fogh Rasmussen.

“We have to make sure that the mission will be a success,” he said. We must prevail and we need more troops.”