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US Legislators Dismayed at UN Vote Rejecting Zimbabwe Sanctions


President Bush says he is displeased with Russia and China for vetoing U.N. sanctions against Zimbabwe's government. Mr. Bush's criticism was echoed on Capitol Hill, where the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs held a hearing Tuesday. VOA's Michael Bowman reports.

Fallout from last week's U.N. vote on Zimbabwe continues to echo in Washington. The proposed sanctions against Harare would have included an arms embargo and a travel ban on President Robert Mugabe and his political allies. Mr. Mugabe has been the subject of sharp international criticism over the recent presidential run off election which has been described as a "sham."

Speaking at the subcommittee hearing, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts expressed dismay over the international community's failure to present a unified front in response to developments in Zimbabwe.

"For months now, Mugabe's thugs have been savaging opposition politicians and members of the party. 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 a gun.' And against all of this, where are we? Where is the world? China and Russia get to veto this [sanctions proposal] and walk away, and there is no outrage?," he said.

China says it wants to give more time for dialogue and negotiation before resorting to punitive measures against Zimbabwe, while Russia says the Security Council would have overstepped its responsibilities had the resolution been approved.

Testifying at the hearing, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Jendayi Frazer said the U.S. position on the crisis in Zimbabwe is clear. "The United States does not and will not accept the legitimacy of any process that does not reflect the will of the Zimbabwean people," she said.

Frazer said the United States will work to isolate the Mugabe regime, strengthen its own sanctions against Harare and urge other nations to do likewise, and encourage regional mediation to end the standoff between Zimbabwe's government and the opposition.

She added, with their Security Council votes, Russia and China have helped "enable" Mugabe to continue his disastrous rule, and missed an opportunity to exercise leadership in Africa. "They need to look at the Zimbabwean government as one in which the people have largely rejected that leadership. And so a new day is coming in Zimbabwe, and China would want to be on the right side of the forces of democratic change," he said.

But Senator Kerry took issue with Frazer's optimistic prediction of a new day coming to Zimbabwe. He questioned the likelihood of negotiations and mediation to yield a positive outcome when President Mugabe has already shown his willingness to resort to any tactic necessary to cling to power. Frazer replied that Zimbabwe's people also have a role to play in determining their country's future, and in particular pointed to moderate members of Zimbabwe's ruling party, who she said must look beyond President Mugabe's personal ambitions.

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