U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee is warning of new targeted U.S.
sanctions on Zimbabwe's leadership if there is no early progress toward
political power-sharing. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State
Department the U.S. envoy says humanitarian conditions in Zimbabwe are
rapidly deteriorating amid the political impasse there.
U.S. envoy in Harare says the humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe has
gone downhill rapidly since the political stalemate began in September,
with growing hunger and now a cholera outbreak he says has claimed
nearly 300 lives.
In a video hookup with reporters, Ambassador
McGee said he saw no easing of conditions until President Robert Mugabe
starts to act in good faith on power-sharing with Morgan Tsvangirai,
head of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
said Mr. Mugabe has thus far been willing to offer the MDC, which won
the March parliamentary elections, only minor government ministries.
said despite the economic crisis, including runaway inflation, Mr.
Mugabe has been able to funnel money to key allies and maintain their
support, and that getting him to yield powers will not be easy.
has made it clear that he is not easily going to give up power here in
Zimbabwe," said McGee. "SADC, the Southern African Development
Community, clearly came out with statements saying that there should be
a unity government, there should be power-sharing, and Mugabe has
pretty much said that Morgan Tsvangirai would never sit in a government
here in Zimbabwe with any true power."
The U.S. ambassador said
that through the shrewd use of patronage Mr. Mugabe's grip on power may
be stronger than it was a year ago.
But he nonetheless insisted
that international sanctions targeted against the longtime president,
family members and close associates, have had real impact. He made
clear the Bush administration is ready to move on further sanctions in
the absence of a political breakthrough.
"We have additional
sanctions that we are prepared to roll out, if this political impasse
continues," said McGee. "Right now we continue to look carefully at
what is going on here in the country. And we feel that unless
something does happen in the very, very near future we have no choice
but to become more, difficult, tougher, on our sanctions."
U.S. envoy said there will no reductions in the U.S. humanitarian aid
program to Zimbabwe, which is well in excess of $200 million a year.
credited Harare authorities with easing financial and travel curbs on
non-governmental organizations trying to distribute aid in the
countryside, but said he was alarmed by conditions he observed
firsthand on a recent motor trip to Harare from South Africa.
is grim," he said. "It is very, very grim. There are a lot of people
standing around, doing absolutely nothing. There are a lot of
distended bellies out there among small children. A lot of people
picking non-nutritious foods from trees, trying to find anything to
eat. When you pass through villages, it is a total look of
hopelessness on the peoples' faces there."
McGee said with a
political settlement, Zimbabwe's economic rebound could be rapid, given
the natural wealth that made it a significant food exporter in past