U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday called on African countries to do more to pressure Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to share power with the political opposition. Rice said that if Mr. Mugabe succeeds in retaining total control of his country, it will have negative consequences for the region. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.
Rice is challenging the notion that southern African states lack the leverage to push Mr. Mugabe into meaningful power-sharing, and says it would be short-sighted of them if they fail to do.
At a news conference in Washington, Rice expressed agreement with Botswana's call to isolate Zimbabwe to force Mr. Mugabe from power, although she said that closing the country's borders with the outside world would be very difficult.
The Secretary said the United States, Europe and some African countries have worked hard to exert pressure on Mr. Mugabe, but that effective sanctions in the United Nations have been blocked.
She said that ultimately, the key to change in Zimbabwe rests with its neighbors.
"Frankly, we need more help from the region," said Rice. "And I think it is short-sighted on the part of the region to let this continue because looks to me as if what Mugabe is doing is that he is pulling as much power onto his own hands as he possibly can. The MDC [the opposition Movement for Democratic Change], I think, is being squeezed out and intimidated. And what started out as power-sharing talks don't look very promising."
Mr. Mugabe agreed in principle in September to share power with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, or MDC, which won parliamentary elections in March. But South African-brokered implementation talks have foundered, with Mr. Mugabe unwilling to yield any key cabinet posts to his rivals.
Rice said that if the process does not succeed, it will have a very great impact on South Africa, in particular, which has already taken in thousands of Zimbabweans displaced by political violence and economic deprivation.
The Secretary said she believes the region has the capacity to put enough pressure on the Zimbabwean leader to get a "reasonable" power-sharing arrangement.
She also said if the region is willing to act, it will make international sanctions easier to achieve.
In the absence of effective United Nations action, the Bush administration has imposed its own targeted sanctions against Mr. Mugabe, his family and close associates.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Treasury Department put sanctions on four more people - two Zimbabwean businessmen, a Thai businesswoman and a Malaysian doctor - it described as Mugabe "cronies".