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US May Tighten Zimbabwe Sanctions

The Bush administration says it is considering broader sanctions against Zimbabwean leaders after President Robert Mugabe claimed victory in an election U.S. officials say was "fundamentally flawed." President Bush says the United States does not recognize the election outcome.

The administration banned U.S. travel by Mr. Mugabe and his top aides last month after the Harare government expelled the European Union's election observers. And now with the long-time Zimbabwean leader having, as officials here put it, "stolen" the election, further sanctions are under consideration.

At his White House news conference, President Bush said the United States is consulting with friends and allies on how to proceed in the election's aftermath. "We do not recognize the outcome of the election because we think it's flawed," he said. "And we're dealing with our friends to figure out how to deal with this flawed election."

In a written statement, Secretary of State Colin Powell said there were "profound irregularities" in the election process resulting in an outcome that did not reflect the will of the Zimbabwean people. As a result, Mr. Powell said, President Mugabe may claim victory but not democratic legitimacy.

The Secretary of State, who in Congressional testimony last week called the Zimbabwean leader an "anachronism" said the Mugabe government has "systematically" subverted democratic processes for more than two years and that the election result will only deepen the country's crisis and the suffering of its people.

At a briefing here, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher rejected as "not based on fact" the findings of some African election monitors including an Organization of African Unity team who have said the Zimbabwe vote was free and fair.

He said assessments of other African observers have been similar to those of the United States and the European Union and insisted there is no cultural divide over the issue.

"I grant you that there have been different African voices in their assessments of these elections," he said. "Perhaps over time as the facts come out even more, we'll see some sort of convergence of the different African voices we've heard. But I would not say that there's any kind of dramatic split between Westerners and Africans on this. There are some Africans who, in fact, have reached the same conclusions as we have."

Mr. Boucher said additional U.S. sanctions could include a freeze on U.S. assets of Zimbabwean leaders and a denial of export licenses for military items.

A senior official said there would be no immediate decision and that U-S action would await, among other things, the return of Assistant Secretary of State Walter Kansteiner who has been consulting with South Africa and other countries in the region on the Zimbabwe situation.