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US Cautious on Zimbabwean Unity Government


The United States said it is withholding judgment on whether the unity government accord approved Thursday by Zimbabwe's parliament will lead to real power-sharing between President Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai. The State Department said it is too soon to talk about dropping sanctions against the Mugabe government.

Though the approval of constitutional changes enabling the unity government produced scenes of jubilation in Zimbabwe's parliament, the reaction here was reserved - with U.S. officials saying it remains to be seen if the development leads to credible power-sharing.

The deal would make Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai - whose party won parliamentary elections last year - prime minister, and bring other opposition figures into the government in which Mr. Mugabe would remain head of state.

The United States and European allies had been skeptical since power-sharing negotiations began last September that the long-time president would yield real powers.

At a news briefing, State Department Acting Spokesman Robert Wood made clear that the Obama administration remains cautious, saying "we will have to see" if the new government adopts policies that really reflect the will of the Zimbabwean people.

"We can only have real, true effective government in Zimbabwe if it is a government that respects the will of its people, and takes care to address the very serious concerns of the Zimbabwean people. And that's what we want to see happen. That's what others in the international community want to see happen. And we'll follow this and see if there is a government that addresses the real serious issues facing its people," Wood said.

The United States and European allies have in recent years imposed targeted financial and economic sanctions against Mr. Mugabe and close associates over human rights and electoral abuses.

Wood said the United States is in touch with allied governments about the future of the sanctions regime. But he put no time frame on sanctions decisions and said concerned countries will "first and foremost" want to see how the new government is formed and what decisions it makes.

Earlier this week, the State Department issued a written statement saying the United States will only consider new development aid and an easing of targeted sanctions when it has "seen evidence" of true power sharing as well as inclusive and effective governance.

It stressed that the United States will continue providing humanitarian aid to the Zimbabwean people in what was termed "their time of suffering." The country is facing a cholera epidemic and near-total economic breakdown blamed here on mis-rule by Mr. Mugabe.

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