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Proposed US Ambassador To Zimbabwe Seen Likely To Maintain Hard Line

The United States has named a successor to former Ambassador Christopher Dell, but some who are familiar with his diplomatic style say he may not be much more to the liking of the Harare government than his outspoken predecessor.

Tuesday in Washington the White House said President George Bush intended to nominate James D. McGee, currently ambassador to Madagascar and the Comoros, and previously ambassador to Swaziland, as U.S. representative to Zimbabwe.

The U.S. Senate must confirm the appointment and the government of Zimbabwe as is customary must express its agreement to the proposed ambassador.

A foreign service officer since 1981, McGee served in Nigeria, Pakistan, the Netherlands, India, Barbados, Jamaica and Cote D’Ivoire before being dispatched to Mbabane, Swaziland, in 2002. The U.S. Senate confirmed him as ambassador to Madagascar in June 2004, and he was sworn in as ambassador to the Comoros in March 2006.

Born in Chicago and a graduate of Indiana University, McGee earned three Distinguished Flying Crosses with the U.S. Air Force in Vietnam.

Sources in Swaziland said Harare should not expect McGee, if confirmed, to be less outspoken than his Dell, whose criticisms often angered President Robert Mugabe and other senior Harare officials.

Deputy Editor Wilton Mamba of the Times of Swaziland told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyelye of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Mcgee’s relationship with the Swazi government during his tenure could be described as volatile.

"He was particularly very outspoken on the issue of...democracy," said Mamba.

"He often argued that there was nothing of that sort and he tried to push Swaziland to go for conventional kinds of democracy. Government was generally hostile towards Mr. Mcgee's attitude." Samba said that on one occasion - a July 4 U.S. Independence Day observation - the Swazi government pressured McGee not to deliver prepared remarks that were "very critical of the political dispensation" in Swaziland.

"No other word exists for Mr. McGee except democracy," Samba said, "and I really foresee serious clashes between himself and the Zimbabwean government."

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...