- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 26, 2008

HARARE, Zimbabwe | The United States expanded sanctions against President Robert Mugabe’s government 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. President Bush said it was a response to continued political violence after Mr. Mugabe’s re-election on June 27 in a vote boycotted by the opposition and condemned around the world.

Mr. Mugabe’s party has begun talks with rival Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) on sharing power to end a dire political and economic crisis. But state media said the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) would insist that Mr. Mugabe’s re-election be recognized, casting doubt over chances for agreement.

Mr. Bush said in a statement he had signed an order that would make it easier to single out individuals in the Mugabe 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,” Mr. 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.

Mr. Mbeki has mediated in the crisis and brokered the framework deal between Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Tsvangirai for the power-sharing talks.

Mr. 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 normalization of relations with international financial institutions.

But Zimbabwean state media said the ZANU-PF would not accept a power-sharing deal that fails to recognize Mr. Mugabe’s re-election or seeks to reverse his land reform program.

The state-owned Herald newspaper said the ZANU-PF agreed its conditions at a politburo meeting earlier this week.

The MDC says Mr. Tsvangirai 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 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. The MDC wants fresh elections held as soon as possible, while Mr. Mugabe wants to carry on with his new five-year mandate.

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