The State Department is ruling out any early lifting of targeted sanctions against Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and close associates, and it denies an assertion from Harare that the United States is talking to the new unity government about restoring direct aid.
Though it continues to provide humanitarian aid through relief groups, the United States has not given direct developmental assistance to the Harare government in a number of years. Along with European Union countries, it has imposed targeted travel and financial sanctions against Mr. Mugabe, family members and key aides for electoral and human rights abuses.
Mr. Mugabe and his former opponents who formed the unity government under a power-sharing deal earlier this year appealed for five billion dollars in outside aid in a joint statement Thursday promising sweeping economic reform.
But at a news briefing, State Department Acting Spokesman Robert Wood made clear the United States is not going to alter its aid policy until it sees real change for the better in political conditions in the southern African country.
"From our standpoint, we have not yet seen sufficient evidence from the government of Zimbabwe that they are firmly and irrevocably on a path to inclusive and effective governance, as well as respect for human rights and the rule of law. So that government has a long way to go before we will consider easing sanctions. I want to be clear: we're not in any kind of discussion with the government of Zimbabwe on removing our targeted sanctions," he said.
Wood said the United States remains very concerned about what he described as terrible suffering in Zimbabwe and will continue to try to help the Zimbabwean people.
The United States has provided the country with more than $250 million in humanitarian assistance in the last year-and-a-half, including several million dollars to combat the country's cholera outbreak.
Zimbabwe is understood to have been among issues covered in a meeting Thursday between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.