US mulls more sanctions against Zimbabwe

United States President George Bush said on Tuesday the United States was looking at imposing more sanctions against Zimbabwe’s government after a United Nations resolution was torpedoed by Russia and China last week.

A robust US sanctions package is already in place against President Robert Mugabe and other senior Zimbabwean officials and Bush told reporters the United States wanted to see if more punitive measures could be effective.

”I think the thing we need to do now is for us to analyse whether or not we can have some more bilateral sanctions on the regime leaders,” Bush told a news conference, adding that he was disappointed by China and Russia’s actions.

The proposed UN sanctions that failed last Friday would have imposed an arms embargo on Zimbabwe as well as financial and travel restrictions on Mugabe and 13 other officials.

The State Department’s top diplomat for Africa, Jendayi Frazer, said the Bush administration was actively preparing another round of sanctions that would affect both government entities and individuals. She gave no further details.

”The United States will continue its own sanctions and encourage others, especially the European Union, to impose additional sanctions to increase pressure on the Mugabe regime,” Frazer testified to a congressional panel.

In a speech to African leaders at a conference in Washington, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said African nations must do more to make Mugabe accountable for his actions, saying the crisis there was ”Africa’s challenge”.

Rice referred to the ”heartbreaking plight” of the Zimbabwean people due to Mugabe’s actions and his disputed re-election last month which the West has called a sham.

”In the Mugabe regime we see the page of history that Africa must turn. A leader for independence which inherited a nation full of promise, but which has devolved into a tyranny that values nothing but power,” she said of Mugabe.

Landslide victory
Mugabe won a landslide victory last month in a vote boycotted by opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change says pro-Mugabe militia have killed at least 113 of its supporters.

The 84-year-old Zimbabwean leader, in power since 1980 after independence from Britain, blames the opposition for the bloodshed.

The United States has made clear African neighbors such as South Africa should take the lead in putting pressure on Mugabe, and Rice repeated this appeal in her address to the forum, bringing together African countries that have a trade arrangement with Washington, including South Africa.

”Southern Africa will face perennial instability until the peaceful aspirations of all Zimbabweans are respected and reflected in their government. This is Africa’s challenge and Africa must succeed,” she added.

Frazer said there was frustration at South African President Thabo Mbeki’s inability to speak out strongly against Mugabe but she predicted greater pressure from Pretoria when Mbeki stepped down early next year after elections.

She said African National Congress president Jacob Zuma was expected to be the next president and he had taken a tougher stand on Mugabe than Mbeki.

”We would expect a difference in policy,” said Frazer.

South Africa and other African Union members are pressing Mugabe and Tsvangirai to accept a power-sharing deal. African leaders see a unity government as the way to avert a spread of violence and total economic collapse in Zimbabwe, which has the world’s highest inflation rate and food and fuel shortages. – Reuters

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