- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 28, 2011

OUTREACH IN ZIMBABWE

U.S. Ambassador Charles Ray tried to soothe tense diplomatic relations with Zimbabwe by meeting with the chairman of the ruling party and insisting that Washington plays no favorites in the domestic political relations.

Mr. Ray, whose previous attempts at reconciliation have been met with insults from autocratic President Robert Mugabe, delivered a new message to Simon Khaya-Moyo, head of Mr. Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African Nation Union-Political Front (ZANU-PF).

The ambassador spoke of the need to “turn a new page in relations with the U.S. through more regular and direct interactions to remove suspicions and antagonism,” the U.S. Embassy in Harare said of last week’s meeting.

“Ambassador Ray reiterated his message … on the future of U.S.- Zimbabwe relations that the United States does not support or oppose any single party in Zimbabwe,” the embassy added.

The United States will deal with any political party or candidate who wins the next election “as long as the election is credible and nonviolent, reflects the will of the people, and is honored in implementation,” the embassy said.

Mr. Mugabe, in power since 1980, has never met those criteria in any of his elections, according to international observers. The United States also has imposed sanctions on Mr. Mugabe and about 200 supporters in his inner circle over accusations of human rights abuses.

Mr. Khaya-Moyo, a former ambassador to South Africa, told reporters in Zimbabwe that his party holds no antipathy toward the United States but considers the sanctions unjust, according to news reports from Harare.

The party chairman is the fourth in line to succeed the ailing 87-year-old president, but some observers say he is a weak and subservient political functionary.

Khaya-Moyo is an apologist of Mugabe and just a figurehead of a political elite that was influential in the southern Matabeleland provinces,” the Kenya Reporter news site said.

BLOCK STATEHOOD

The Obama administration must pledge “publicly and unequivocally” to block Palestinian attempts to declare statehood at the United Nations next month, the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee demanded.

The leadership of the Palestinian Authority, which controls only the West Bank, has said it will seek a statehood declaration at the annual meeting of the U.N. General Assembly, which includes a large number of anti-Israeli members and is likely to approve the measure.

An approval by the General Assembly would leave the Obama administration in the position of vetoing the measure in the U.N. Security Council, which would make the final decision on Palestinian statehood.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is calling on President Obama to promise to block the declaration if it gets to the Security Council.

The Florida Republican also accused the Palestinian Authority of “cynically” attempting to gain U.N. membership without negotiating international boundaries with Israel or regaining control of the Gaza Strip, where Hamas terrorists recently have fired rockets at Israeli villages.

“Before this dangerous charade progresses further, the Obama administration must make clear, publicly and unequivocally, that is will stop any U.N. Security Council effort to recognize or grant upgraded U.N. status to a Palestinian state,” she said.

The White House repeatedly has expressed opposition to a Palestinian state without Israeli approval, but its statements have failed to satisfy Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen.

“Now is not the time for more biased U.N. measures,” she said.

“Now is the time for the Palestinians to stop their anti-peace, anti-Israeli measures and to start meeting their obligations or face the consequences.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.