President Bush has imposed financial sanctions against Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and 76 close associates including his wife, elder sister, and senior members of his government. The measures, including a freeze on any U.S. assets the Zimbabwean figures may have in the United States, parallel action already taken by the European Union.
A message to Congress from the president invoking the sanctions accuses Mr. Mugabe and his ruling circle of "systematically undermining" Zimbabwe's democratic institutions through violence, intimidation and repressive means including legislation to stifle political opposition.
It says the campaign aimed at ensuring Mr. Mugabe's continued rule was reflected in what was termed the "badly flawed" presidential election in Zimbabwe last year, and carried on subsequently through "intensified repression" of opposition parties and the independent press.
Adding to the desperation of the Zimbabwean people, the White House statement said, the current government has engaged in a "violent assault on the rule of law" that has thrown the economy into chaos, devastated the country's agricultural sector, and triggered a "potentially catastrophic" food crisis.
The Bush administration has been sharply critical of the Mugabe government's land re-distribution program, which has included the confiscation of hundreds of white-owned commercial farms and slashed agricultural output at a time of drought-induced food shortages.
The list of those facing U.S. sanctions includes top security and foreign policy aides of Mr. Mugabe but also senior agriculture and land-distribution officials. Also on the list are the president's wife Grace and elder sister, Sabina, both of whom are reported to have been personally involved along with other family members in land seizures.
Mr. Bush's executive order freezes any assets the Zimbabwean leaders may have in the United States and bars Americans from engaging in any transactions or dealings with them.
The asset freeze follows a U.S. travel ban imposed against Mr. Mugabe and other senior officials after last year's elections, and it complements similar sanctions by the European Union.
Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said the action is aimed not at the people of Zimbabwe, but rather he said "those most responsible for their current plight."
He said the United States is "acutely aware" of the hardships Zimbabwe's people are enduring and is "working diligently" with international partners to try to ensure that adequate food supplies reach those in need.
Mr. Fleischer said the U.S. government will also continue to seek ways to support Zimbabwean aspirations for a peaceful and democratic future.