HARARE (Reuters) - The United States expanded sanctions against President Robert Mugabe’s government on Friday, increasing pressure on the Zimbabwean leader as his party discusses a power-sharing deal with the opposition.
The U.S. move followed a similar EU decision this week. U.S. President George W. Bush said it was a response to continued political violence after Mugabe’s re-election on June 27 in a vote boycotted by the opposition and condemned around the world.
Mugabe’s party has begun talks with Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC on sharing power to end a dire political and economic crisis. But state media said the ruling ZANU-PF would insist that Mugabe’s re-election be recognised, casting doubt over chances for agreement.
Bush said in a statement he had signed an order which would make it easier to single out individuals in Mugabe’s government and entities connected to it.
“This action is a direct result of the Mugabe regime’s continued politically-motivated violence ... No regime should ignore the will of its own people and calls from the international community without consequences,” Bush said.
The U.S. Treasury moved to freeze the assets of 17 business enterprises controlled by the Zimbabwean government and banned Americans from doing business with them.
Although Western countries have increased their own sanctions on Zimbabwe, Russia and China blocked their efforts to get such measures adopted by the United Nations.
African states generally oppose sanctions, but South African President Thabo Mbeki said at an EU-South African summit on Friday he had not asked the Europeans to shift their own position on sanctions.
Mbeki has mediated in the crisis and brokered the framework deal between Mugabe and Tsvangirai for the power-sharing talks.
African governments see a national unity government as the only way to reverse Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown and avert an escalation of violence in a crisis that has already spilled millions of people into neighbouring countries.
“We think the negotiations are on the right track. Angola defends that a solution agreed upon by the Zimbabweans themselves must be respected. We are hopeful everything will be resolved,” Angolan Prime Minister Fernando da Piedade Dias dos Santos told journalists in Lisbon.
Mbeki said that only those at the talks in South Africa, which have a two-week deadline, could reach an agreement.
“They will take decisions no doubt about who does what, who retires when, who gets what post and so on. It is not a matter that would come from the mediator,” he said in Bordeaux.
A coalition of world Christian bodies said violence and human rights abuses must end if talks are to have any chance of success, and also called for a “genuine restoration of the rule of law” and justice for the survivors of election violence.
“We believe that the will of the people should be the fundamental basis on which to ground negotiations,” the coalition said in a letter made public by the Geneva-based World Council of Churches.
Bush said that should the talks lead to a new government, the United States stood ready to provide a substantial assistance package, development aid and normalisation of relations with international financial institutions.
But Zimbabwean state media said Mugabe’s ZANU-PF would not accept a power-sharing deal that fails to recognise Mugabe’s re-election or seeks to reverse his land reform programme.
The state-owned Herald newspaper said ZANU-PF agreed its conditions at a politburo meeting earlier this week.
“The meeting noted that there has to be a figure who appoints the all-inclusive government envisaged in the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the three parties on Monday,” the Herald said.
“And that figure is President Mugabe who won the run-off.”
Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change says he should be president because he won a first round of voting in March. He abandoned the run-off because of attacks on his supporters.
A spokesman for Tsvangirai’s said the party would not accept any negotiations based on the June 27 result.
The parties also disagree over how long a national unity government should remain in power. Tsvangirai’s MDC wants fresh elections held as soon as possible, while Mugabe wants to carry on with his new five-year mandate.
Additional reporting by Jean-Yves Saint-Ceran in Bordeaux; David Lawder and Tabassum Zakaria in Washington; Robert Evans in Geneva, Henrique Almeida in Lisbon: Writing by Marius Bosch; Editing by Richard Williams