Sunday, July 27, 2008

Fresh US sanctions for Zimbabwe

The US has imposed new sanctions on Zimbabwe, accusing President Robert Mugabe of heading an "illegitimate" government that sponsors violence.

US President George W Bush signed an executive order expanding restrictions against individuals and organisations linked to Mr Mugabe's government.

Mr Bush said the sanctions were a "direct result" of government actions.

Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party has begun power-sharing talks with the opposition in an effort to end a political crisis. The president was re-elected with a landslide majority in June's presidential vote, a poll boycotted by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which said its supporters have been subjected to a state-sponsored campaign of violence.

In a statement issued by the White House, Mr Bush said he approved action against Mr Mugabe's government after the Zimbabwean leader continually ignored international pressure to stop election-related violence.

The new sanctions will affect 17 Zimbabwean companies with links to the government - including the Agricultural Development Bank of Zimbabwe, and will ban US citizens from doing business with them.

"No regime should ignore the will of its own people and calls from the international community without consequences," Mr Bush said. The move expands the list of Zimbabwan companies and individuals banned from dealing with the US to more than 250, after sanctions were first imposed in 2003.

On Tuesday, the European Union also expanded its list of allies of Mr Mugabe subject to travel and business restrictions. Mr Bush added that he hoped the talks between Mr Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, currently underway in South Africa, would "result in a new government that reflects the will of the Zimbabwean people".

If so, the US would be ready to provide "a substantial assistance package, development aid, and normalisation with international financial institutions," Mr Bush said.

Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai shook hands on Monday as they signed a memorandum paving the way for talks. It was the two men's first meeting in a decade.

The MDC says at least 120 of its supporters have been killed, about 5,000 abducted and 200,000 forced from their homes since the first round of the elections, in a campaign of violence by pro-Mugabe militias and the army.

Cabinet ministers and military officials have denied the charges.

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