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US Says Mbeki Owed No Apology on Zimbabwe

The State Department says it sees no reason to apologize to South African President Thabo Mbeki over U.S. criticism of his handling of Zimbabwe's political crisis. Mr. Mbeki came under sharp criticism last week from U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

The Bush administration is standing by its assertion that the Mbeki government was on the wrong side of history when it voted against last week's draft U.N. sanctions resolution, and says it is not apologetic about Ambassador Khalilzad's critical remarks.

South African Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad said Tuesday his government would seek an apology over what he said were extraordinary and unacceptable comments by Khalilzad in the Security Council, after the resolution was vetoed by Russia and China.

South Africa also opposed the resolution, which would have put financial and travel sanctions on Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and key associates for political repression in connection with Mr. Mugabe's recent re-election.

Among other things, Ambassador Khalilzad expressed surprise over what he said was Mr. Mbeki's apparent protection of his Zimbabwean counterpart, even as he used violent means against the opposition.

The U.S. envoy said he believed Mr. Mbeki is out of touch with political trends in his own country on the issue.

At a news briefing, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said he had read a transcript of the Khalilzad comments and found nothing that merits an apology:

"Each individual state made its own decision," said Sean McCormack. "South Africa could have stood in the right side of history and voted for the resolution. They chose not to. Again, [it was] their decision and let people judge their actions."

McCormack also there was nothing inappropriate in an expression of hope Tuesday by Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer that South Africa will take a harder line on Zimbabwe after Mr. Mbeki leaves office next year.

The spokesman said it is a matter of record that African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma, considered Mr. Mbeki's likely successor, has taken a different public stance than the current president, who has been widely accused of being soft on the Mugabe government.

President Bush told his news conference Tuesday the administration is working on potential new U.S. bilateral sanctions on the Zimbabwean leadership after the failure of the draft U.N resolution.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, meanwhile, depicted the authoritarian Mugabe government as a page in history that Africa must turn. She warned the region will face perennial instability unless the peaceful aspirations of Zimbabweans are respected, and reflected in their government.