The United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe says international pressure has so far failed to weaken embattled President Robert Mugabe's firm grip on power. Ambassador James McGee maintains that President Mugabe has no intention of following through with the recently signed power-sharing agreement with Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). His comments come after South Africa said Thursday it was withholding financial aid to Harare to show Pretoria's frustration with the lack of progress with negotiations between the ruling ZANU-PF and the MDC. Zimbabwean political analyst Glen Mpani tells reporter Peter Clottey that Ambassador McGee is right in his evaluation of the Zimbabwe crisis.

"I think his assessment is quite correct that international pressure has failed to weaken Mugabe. What it has simply done is that it has played into his propaganda that he has been using over the years to say the Zimbabwe problem is external. So, whenever external powers or external players try to discuss the Zimbabwean issue, he tries to push it away, arguing that there is influence from the British, who are aggrieved because of the land problem," Mpani noted.

He said President Mugabe's way of handling the situation in his country is making life difficult for the African continent.

"That has also affected regional bodies including the African Union, who are now being forced to decide whether to be behind an African brother who is being persecuted by the west or to pay much attention to the human right abuses and the suffering of the people of Zimbabwe, and that is the dilemma that the people of Zimbabwe are concerned with," he said.

South Africa said Thursday it will withhold nearly 30 million dollars of aid to Zimbabwe until a new government is formed as it prepares to host new power-sharing talks next week.

Mpani said Harare knows African leaders are disgruntled, but would not publicly criticize the ZANU-PF party.

"The government of Harare is fully aware that members of SADC (Southern African Development Community) and members of the AU (African Union) privately are disgruntled over the way the government in Harare is handling the affairs and the negotiation process. But as long as they don't speak publicly and as long as they don't raise or object to it unanimously, I think it would always be to the advantage of the ZANU-PF government," Mpani pointed out.

He said a ZANU-PF government would not in the least be concerned about South Africa's decision to withhold financial aid until a unity government is formed in Zimbabwe.

"The withholding of the money of the South African government, saying they are waiting for an inclusive government to be formed does not really send the right signal to the ZANU-PF government to really say that there is a problem. They (ZANU-PF) would just take it as the process before where they ended up not borrowing money from the South African government. So it does not really clearly show that the South African government is frustrated," he said.

Meanwhile, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and others, including Nelson Mandela, are pressing ahead with a humanitarian mission to Zimbabwe, despite stiff resistance from Harare, which declared that they are unwelcome.

Mpani said there is need for the group of world leaders to visit Zimbabwe and illuminate the deteriorating humanitarian situation.

"As you have already heard from the media, the Zimbabwe government has already said they are not welcome because they are viewing them as partisans. But I think that the initiative to go to Zimbabwe would help put Zimbabwe in the limelight because as you are aware, because of the developments in the Democratic Republic of Congo, attention on Zimbabwe has become minimal. So there is need for them to go and look at what is happening on the humanitarian situation because it is very important," Mpani noted.

Also taking part in the two-day visit starting Saturday are former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Graca Machel, an international advocate for women's and children's rights who is married to Mandela. Annan stressed in a statement that the visit was separate from a regional attempt to get Mugabe and his rivals to implement a power-sharing agreement that has been stalled since it was signed in September.