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Zimbabwe Might Face Additional U.S. Sanctions

Zimbabwe's Rulers Might Face Additional U.S. Sanctions; State Department Envoy Says Political Mediation Talks Can Succeed

Washington -- The Bush administration is seeking to expand its financial restrictions on Zimbabwe's leadership to include a greater number of individuals and corporations and government entities, according to the State Department's top envoy on African issues.

Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer told U.S. lawmakers July 15 that the United States is encouraging other countries, especially those in Africa and the European Union, to adopt similar measures in the wake the veto by China and Russia of a U.N. Security Council resolution that would have imposed worldwide financial pressure on the regime of President Robert Mugabe.

Addressing the Senate Foreign Relations African Affairs Subcommittee, Frazer said the United States already has imposed financial and travel restrictions against 135 individuals and 30 corporate entities "who have undermined their country's democratic process," including members of Mugabe's inner circle and some of their family members.

Individual Americans or U.S. corporations who violate the sanctions face penalties ranging from $250,000 to $500,000, she said.

"We are looking to expand the category of Zimbabweans who are covered. We are also looking at sanctions on government entities as well, not just individuals." She added that the U.S. Treasury Department also is looking into ways to target sectors of Zimbabwe's mining industry.

Subcommittee Chairman Russ Feingold (Democrat from Wisconsin) urged harsher worldwide sanctions against the Mugabe regime. "Now is the time to scale up, not give up on global action," he said. "We must not allow Zimbabwe to fall out of the international spotlight as it has many times before."

Political Mediation Is Immediate Issue

Zimbabwe's main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which won the majority of parliamentary seats in the March 29 election but whose candidate withdrew from the June 27 presidential runoff vote after weeks of violent attacks against its members and supporters, is discussing the terms of talks aimed at finding a compromise solution with the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party.

Frazer said the mediation process between the two sides is "probably the most immediate issue" in solving the violent political crisis and said the talks could succeed if they result in a "transitional government that could then prepare for an election so that we could get back to a democratic path."

She said that ZANU-PF faces internal divisions even though the 80-year-old Mugabe holds most of the power in the country. "We have an old man clinging to power who refuses to move aside," which she said is presenting "a problem for his own party," which does not have a clear successor to Mugabe.

MDC also faces divisions from within, and Frazer urged the opposition to "stand strong" in any discussions "for the will of the people and not just a seat in the government."

U.N. Security Council Missed An Opportunity

Senator and former presidential candidate John Kerry (Democrat from Massachusetts) expressed displeasure at the lack of international action against Zimbabwe after the violence that swept the country and helped Mugabe hold on to power.

"There's really some sense that the world has lost its capacity for appropriate outrage," he said, referring specifically to the situation in the Darfur region of Sudan as well as Zimbabwe. In the months following Zimbabwe's March 29 election, government supporters killed more than 100 people, injured 10,000, unlawfully detained more than 2000 and displaced more than 200,000.

"Frankly the details are much more horrifying than those statistics convey, because, as we know, women were burned to death, young men were tortured and dismembered, the elderly were savagely beaten, and Mugabe had the audacity to say to the world 'what do I care about an election? An X on a ballot means nothing against the power of the gun.'"

Kerry said international condemnations are inadequate. "The words are really beginning to fall flat, big time. The actions are just not there."

Frazer said that with the failure of the July 11 U.N. Security Council resolution, the council "missed the opportunity to support the courageous efforts of the Zimbabwean people to change their lives peacefully through elections," by taking action against the political violence and demanding that the Mugabe regime reinstate humanitarian assistance and negotiate seriously with the MDC.

Asked if Russia and China vetoed the resolution for financial reasons, she replied "we should follow the money."

Russia's change from its previous support of a multilateral statement threatening financial action against Zimbabwe's government "was a bit of a whiplash for us," she said. "It's hard to explain."

Frazer also said China is still "finding its way in Africa" and urged the government in Beijing to side with the people of Africa instead of nondemocratic rulers. In Zimbabwe's case, given the popular support for the MDC shown by the March 29 vote, Zimbabwe's government largely was rejected by its people.

"A new day is coming in Zimbabwe and China would want to be on the right side of the forces of democratic change," she said.

ENDS

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