Zimbabwe's state-controlled press is reporting that U.S. ambassador Christopher Dell may be expelled from the country. Mr. Dell has attracted attention from the Zimbabwe government and President Robert Mugabe following a long and critical speech he delivered to a U.S.-backed university in eastern Zimbabwe last week.

Zimbabwe's state controlled daily Herald newspaper and its sister publication the Sunday Mail have been running front page reports since last week condemning ambassador Dell.

On Saturday The Herald ran a political column which speculated about Mr. Dell's personal life. The column also hinted that his diplomatic immunity might no longer be guaranteed.

Mr. Dell told academic staff and students at the United Methodist Church-run Africa University in Mutare that Zimbabwe's economic collapse was a result of misrule and not drought or international sanctions as the government claims. He sid he knew of no other example in the world of an economy that, in peace time, had contracted so precipitously, with Zimbabweans buying power now at levels of 52 years ago.

He said "the Zimbabwe government's own gross mismanagement of the economy and its corrupt rule has brought on the crisis."

In another speech two days later he said that the Zimbabwe government made it difficult to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

The Sunday Mail suggested he would be summoned to Mr. Mugabe's office for a reprimand. The Herald then suggested that Mr. Dell's expulsion from his diplomatic post is under consideration.

Government spokesman George Charamba says Ambassador Dell would be summoned by the ministry of foreign affairs for criticism for what they consider an undiplomatic speech.

Last month, Mr. Dell was detained for 90 minutes by Mr. Mugabe's personal soldiers as he was walking his dog in the famous National Botanical Gardens and wandered into a poorly marked, unfenced security area.

That section of the gardens is close to Mr. Mugabe's main official residence in Harare. The Zimbabwe government said Mr. Dell had attempted to provoke a diplomatic incident.

The U.S. Embassy has not reacted to any of the reports from the official media about Mr. Dell.

The U.S. Agency for International Development is the largest donor to Zimbabwe's HIV/AIDS programs and to various humanitarian causes such as funding for the United Nations World Food Program which will shortly begin an emergency feeding program for close to four million people, about a third of the population.

The United States and the European Union sanctions are directed against the leadership of the ruling Zanu PF who cannot travel to the United States or Europe, except to United Nations functions.