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White House Urges International Action on Zimbabwe


The White House is considering steps to put pressure on what has been called the illegitimate government of Zimbabwe. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports a draft resolution is already being circulated at the United Nations targeting President Robert Mugabe and his supporters.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino says the United States will make the case for tough U.N. sanctions.

But she says America may also act on its own.

"We will press for strong actions by the United Nations. But we could also act unilaterally," she said.

She says the sanctions could come on multiple levels, noting they are most effective when many nations send the same message.

"Obviously, sanctions work best when there are multiple parties working in concert, like we are with the European Union when it comes to getting Iran to halt its uranium enrichment," added Perino.

President Bush ordered top U.S. officials to start putting together a sanctions package on Saturday shortly after the Mugabe regime declared victory in an election many called "a sham."

Perino says it may take several days before the full package is formally announced. However, the administration is already circulating ideas at the United Nations.

A draft document being distributed among Security Council members calls for an arms embargo and targeted sanctions against individuals and entities involved in election-related violence or intimidation in Zimbabwe.

The draft resolution also declares the presidential election in Zimbabwe was neither free nor fair. And it calls on the Mugabe regime to lift restrictions on humanitarian assistance.

Perino says everyone realizes how dire the situation is in Zimbabwe. She emphasizes sanctions will be narrowly targeted so the poor do not pay the price.

"Sanctions would be targeted to the leader and his cronies and those who support the regime. What we will continue to do is continue to provide food assistance to more than one million people and then HIV-AIDS treatment to more than 40,000 people there in Zimbabwe who need that treatment," continued Perino.

During a session with reporters, Perino was asked about possible African pressure on the Mugabe regime.

African leaders opened a summit earlier Monday at the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el Sheikh, with Robert Mugabe in attendance. He got a warm welcome, but Perino said the White House is waiting to see what will happen as the meeting wears on, and African leaders take a closer look at Zimbabwe's election and the violence and voter intimidation that accompanied the balloting.

"A lot of those leaders in Africa understand and did speak out before the sham election. So I think we ought to let the meeting take place and see what happens," she said.

Perino said the actions of Robert Mugabe are casting a pall on other African governments. She said they are portraying Africa in a negative light, and drawing attention away from the reform-minded leaders at work elsewhere on the continent.