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US Warns of New Zimbabwe Sanctions if Mugabe Reneges on Power-Sharing

The United States warns it is prepared to impose additional sanctions against the government of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe if he reneges on power-sharing with the opposition. As VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department, U.S. officials say there is ample leverage yet to be used against Harare authorities if necessary.

The warning reflects growing U.S. frustration about the negotiations on Zimbabwe power-sharing which have advanced little, or even regressed, since a basic agreement was reached.

Under the September 15th agreement, President Mugabe pledged to share power with opposition-leader Morgan Tsvangirai who would become prime minister.

But implementation has stalled over which side will control key ministries, with Mr. Mugabe unilaterally assigning his ZANU-PF party control over the military police and foreign affairs.

Mr. Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change, the MDC, has threatened to withdraw from the deal.

At a news briefing, State Department Deputy Spokesman Robert Wood said the United States is trying to encourage an agreement that reflects the intent of the September accord and the elections earlier this year in which the MDC won control of parliament. He would not elaborate but said additional U.S. sanctions are possible if Mr. Mugabe reneges on power-sharing.

"I am not at liberty here to talk about what sanctions we may be planning," Wood said. "Let us just say we are very committed to seeing this process go forward in a positive way that reflects the will of the Zimbabwean people. We are obviously following these events very closely, and we are encouraging the parties to reach an agreement. And so we will be watching it closely and encouraging both parties to bring this agreement to fruition. Again, should Mugabe not negotiate in good faith on a power-sharing agreement, then we will look at other options, including additional sanctions."

Wood said the Zimbabwean people have suffered a very long time because of their country's political situation and that the situation needs to come to an end.

The United States and the European Union have imposed travel and financial sanctions against President Mugabe, close relatives and other senior government figures for past human-rights abuses and election-rigging.

A senior U.S. official who spoke to reporters said those targeted sanctions against what he termed the regime and associates of the regime could be broadened. He insisted that despite the layers of existing sanctions, the United States does not lack leverage over the Harare government.

Spokesman Wood said while the United States is involved in diplomatic efforts with Zimbabwe, former South African President Thabo Mbeki and the southern Africa regional grouping, SADC, continue to play the lead role in trying to resolve the impasse.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to discuss Zimbabwe, among other issues, in a meeting Tuesday in Washington with the head of South Africa's ruling African National Congress party, Jacob Zuma.