President Bush Friday ordered expanded U.S. sanctions against what he termed the "illegitimate" government of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. At the same time, the United States is offering the country aid if there is a negotiated end to the country's political conflict. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

The Bush administration had promised to tighten unilateral U.S. sanctions against Zimbabwe after a draft U.N. Security Council resolution for international sanctions was vetoed earlier this month by Russia and China.

An announcement from the U.S. Treasury Department said 17 Zimbabwean commercial entities and one individual, an Omani businessman with close ties to President Mugabe, are being added to a U.S. sanction list that already includes among others, Mr. Mugabe, his wife, and key associates.

Several government-owned or controlled companies are on the new list including the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation and the Agriculture Development Bank of Zimbabwe.

The Treasury Department said Mr. Mugabe, senior officials and cronies had used the entities to illegally siphon cash and foreign exchange from the Zimbabwean people.

Treasury officials said the Omani national, Thamer Bin Saeed Al-Shafari and a company he owns - Oryx National Resources - had enabled Mr. Mugabe and senior officials to derive personal benefit from mining ventures in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In a White House statement, President Bush said the action against what he termed the "illegitimate" Mugabe government is a direct result of its continued politically-motivated violence despite international appeals, and its continued ban on activity by non-governmental aid groups that could help the country's "suffering and vulnerable" people.

Mr. Bush said no regime should ignore the will of its own people and calls from the international community without consequence.

But the U.S. administration also took note of efforts begun this week among Mr. Mugabe and his political rivals, including opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, to negotiate an end to the political conflict spawned by the disputed presidential run-off election in June.

State Department Acting Spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos, echoing earlier White House remarks, said the United States would be ready to come to the assistance of a Zimbabwean coalition government:

"Should ongoing talks in South Africa between Mugabe's regime and the Movement for Democratic Change result in a new government that reflects the will of the Zimbabwean people, we stand ready to provide a substantial assistance package, development aid, and normalization with international financial institutions," he said.

Gallegos said the Bush administration in the meantime is continuing humanitarian aid to Zimbabwe, authorizing another two and a half million dollars in emergency funds to assist Zimbabweans displaced by ongoing political violence.

U.S. food and health assistance will also continue.

The steps by the Bush administration followed a similar broadening of Zimbabwe sanctions by the European Union, which announced Tuesday its is adding 37 new individuals and companies to an existing list of more than 130.

The Treasury Department sanctions imposed Friday freeze any assets the Zimbabwean firms may have in financial institutions under U.S. jurisdiction. Additionally, U.S. citizens are prohibited from conducting any business with them.