The Bush administration is giving notice that Zimbabwe's President Mugabe can expect a diplomatic cold-shoulder from the United States claiming victory in an election U.S. officials say was fundamentally flawed.
Officials here stress that there is no thought being given to breaking off relations with Zimbabwe. But they, nonetheless, make clear there will be little direct dialogue with Mr. Mugabe and his top associates in the aftermath of an election the Bush administration says was "stolen."
Briefing reporters, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Mr. Mugabe cannot expect the same kind of treatment from the United States as would a leader who came to power in a fair election.
"We said Mr. Mugabe can claim victory, but not legitimacy," he said. "We don't see him as a leader who can claim to have been elected by legitimate election like a democratic leader in other parts of the world. We won't deal with him on that basis."
Mr. Boucher said the "different" treatment of Mr. Mugabe actually began last month when the administration banned U.S. travel by the Zimbabwean president, his key aides and their families. This, after the Harare government expelled the head of the European Union's election observer team.
Additional targeted U.S. sanctions are under consideration including a freeze on assets kept in the United States by the Zimbabwean leadership, and a ban on exports to Zimbabwe of defense-related items. Officials here also would not rule out the possibility of some reduction of the U.S. diplomatic presence in Harare.
At the White House, spokesman Ari Fleischer said the United States is coordinating its election response, including possible added sanctions, with the European Union and a number of African governments.
He said those African countries that have defended the legitimacy of the Zimbabwe elections are sending a "negative signal" to the rest of the world about Africa's commitment to the rule of law and democracy.