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US Expects Democracy in Zimbabwe, Says Bush - 2003-07-10

President Bush says South Africa is an "honest broker" in efforts to resolve Zimbabwe's political crisis, despite allegations from Zimbabwe's opposition leader that Mr. Bush is being mislead.

President Bush discussed the crisis in neighboring Zimbabwe with Botswana's President Festus Mogae, saying Zimbabwe's ruling party is hurting the country's chances for economic development.

"We expect there to be democracy in Zimbabwe in order for the people of that country to advance," the president said.

Mr. Bush again expressed support for the mediation efforts of South African President Thabo Mbeki, a day after Mr. Mbeki told him that Zimbabwe's ruling party and the opposition MDC are working to resolve their differences.

"I did tell the president that indeed the government of Zanu-PF and the MDC are indeed discussing," he noted. " They are engaged in discussions on all of the matters that would be relevant to the resolution of these political and economic problems."

Zimbabwe's opposition leader says that is not true.

Morgan Tsvangirai says President Mbeki's contention that political dialogue is under way in Zimbabwe is "patently false and mischievous" and is, in his words "manifestly partisan" in an effort to "buy time" for Mr. Mugabe and delay efforts by potentially "genuine brokers" such as the United States.

Mr. Tsvangirai, who is facing charges of treason, says there have been no talks between the two sides in more than a year.

Mr. Bush did not respond directly to Mr. Tsvangirai's allegations and instead blamed President Mugabe for high unemployment and inflation that is slowing regional development.

"It's a shame that that economy has gotten so weak and soft. It's a shame for Botswana. It's a shame for Southern Africa," he said. " The weakness in the economy is directly attributable to bad governance. And therefore we will continue to speak out for democracy in Zimbabwe."

Mr. Bush says President Mbeki is the "point-man" on Zimbabwe and he has no intention of second-guessing his tactics of "quiet diplomacy" to bring about political and economic reforms.