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US Tightens Sanctions on Zimbabwean Officials

The United States is imposing more sanctions on officials in the government of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe whom it accuses of human rights abuses and political violence. VOA's Alex Villarreal reports from Washington.

Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer announced the new sanctions in a speech in Washington Monday.

She said the punitive measures target Zimbabwean officials who played a central role in what she called the regime's growing human rights abuses.

The measures include both financial and travel restrictions. Frazer said the travel sanctions will affect 38 people, including state security officials and adult children of Zimbabwe government officials currently studying in the United States.

"It is intolerable that those closest to Mugabe are enjoying the privilege of sending their children to the United States for an education, when they have destroyed the once outstanding educational system in their own country, thereby depriving ordinary Zimbabweans of a decent education," said Jendayi Frazer.

Frazer warned that the United States will expand the sanctions even further if the abuses continue. She said the Zimbabwean government's only way to remove them is to return to democracy.

"Let me be clear," she said. "We can reverse these actions, once the politically motivated violence ceases and the government implements the reforms needed to restore Zimbabwe to what it once was, a democratic and prosperous country that was a jewel of the region."

The United States, the European Union and the Commonwealth have all imposed travel, aid and economic restrictions on Zimbabwe, accusing the government of violent repression of democratic freedoms. Zimbabwe's non-governmental organizations quoted by the U.S. State Department report more than six-thousand human rights abuses so far this year.

President Mugabe has denied allegations of misrule.

Zimbabwe has descended into a deep economic crisis, with an inflation rate of several thousand percent and shortages of everything from food to fuel.

Critics blame Zimbabwe's economic woes on the government's policies. Mr. Mugabe himself blames foreign interference.