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Zimbabwe's Foreign Minister Encourages Rice to Visit Country

Zimbabwean Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is free to visit Zimbabwe to acquaint herself with the political situation in the country. This follows Ms. Rice's description of the country as one of six outposts of tyranny.

In the state-controlled Sunday Mail newspaper, Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge referred to testimony Condoleeza Rice gave to Congress during her confirmation hearing. He says she overlooked, what he called, the Zimbabwe government's "positive signals through a decrease of open violence against political opponents".

One critic, who does not support the Zimbabwe government, says Ms. Rice's description of Zimbabwe as an outpost of tyranny is too strong.

University of Zimbabwe Professor Heneri Dzinotyiwei says while the situation in Zimbabwe is far from perfect, Ms. Rice's comments are inaccurate. And he says, the United States singling out Zimbabwe is unfair, considering its ties with such country's as Saudi Arabia and Libya.

"Is it simply because Libya now has given some gesture that it wants to cooperate with the outside world, particularly the western world and the United States, that they see it as more democratic than Zimbabwe? Can anybody say that really? So, in short, democracy must not be used to mean governments that are pro-American, but genuinely countries with governments that reflect the interests of their own people," he said.

Professor Brian Raftopolous, also of the University of Zimbabwe, agrees.

"The second aspect is the sense of hypocrisy when this kind of condemnation comes from a U.S. government that is itself conducting repressive politics in places like Iraq, Afghanistan," he said. "So there is that ambiguity in our response to the Condoleezza Rice position."

But Mr. Raftopoulous and Mr. Dzinotyiwei agree the United States and the international community should play a key role in resolving the crisis in Zimbabwe. Mr. Raftopolous says that role should involve supporting regional efforts.

"I think the role that they can play is to support whatever initiatives are coming out of the region around trying to get discussions internally in Zimbabwe," he said. "But I think the fundamental resolution of the Zimbabwe question lies within Zimbabwe itself with the assistance of those in the region and on the continent who have a constructive intentions within the Zimbabwe situation."

Government officials from President Robert Mugabe on down often accuse the governments of the United States and Britain of demonizing the Zimbabwe government with the goals of effecting regime change. And they accuse the opposition party - the Movement for Democratic Change - as being the agent of those governments.

Some opposition officials say privately that comments such as those made by Ms. Rice actually play into the hands of Mr. Mugabe in his efforts to paint the opposition as an enemy of the people of Zimbabwe.