- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 5, 2002

Tougher on Zimbabwe

The International Crisis Group (ICG) is urging the United States and Europe to get tougher on Zimbabwe before the weekend presidential election.

"At ten minutes to Zimbabwe's electoral midnight, it is still not too late for the international community to help achieve a democratic outcome," said ICG President Gareth Evans, a former foreign minister of Australia.

The ICG called on Washington and the European Union to impose broader sanctions on a select number of leading supporters of President Robert Mugabe, who has been accused of widespread political corruption and brutality against opponents.

In its latest report, the group said even the children of Mr. Mugabe's cronies should be targeted.

The ICG recommended four actions that could force Mr. Mugabe to hold open elections. The United States should follow the EU lead and freeze the assets of Mr. Mugabe's supporters. The United States and the EU should publicly identify his supporters and revoke the visas of any of their children attending American or European schools. Finally, Washington and the EU should threaten any Zimbabwean or foreign-owned companies with sanctions if they collaborate with the Mugabe government in election abuses.

"The [election] campaign … has been marked by substantial intimidation through deadly violence and related measures on behalf" of Mr. Mugabe, the ICG said.

Colombia sees support

Colombian Ambassador Luis Alberto Moreno says he believes his country has "strong bipartisan support" in the U.S. Congress for more military aid in its fight against drug-trafficking rebels.

American aid to Colombia is restricted to training Colombian soldiers to combat the illegal drug trade, but Colombia says the rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and other militant groups smuggle drugs to finance their uprisings.

President Andres Pastrana broke off peace talks last week after FARC guerrillas hijacked an airliner and kidnapped a presidential candidate. Authorities blame the rebels for the slaying of a member of the Colombian Senate over the weekend.

Mr. Pastrana ordered his armed forces to retake a safe haven the size of Switzerland that he established in 1998 to provide an incentive for rebels to negotiate an end to 36 years of civil war.

"I see strong bipartisan support in Congress for President Pastrana's decision and a desire to accompany the Bush administration in whatever change in policy that is required," Mr. Moreno said in an interview with Reuters news agency.

President Bush has increased the delivery of military supplies and offered to share intelligence on the rebels.

"Colombia is not requesting anything extravagant," Mr. Moreno said. "There is a lot of equipment in Colombia that we can use to improve the ability of our armed forces to prevent terrorist attacks and go after terrorists."

'Point of the gun'

The U.S. ambassador to Liberia is calling on authoritarian President Charles Taylor to free political prisoners and guarantee that next year's elections will be free and democratic.

"Political change at the point of the gun is not acceptable. It must not be Liberians' only option," Ambassador Bismarck Myrick told reporters in the capital, Monrovia, last week.

He called on Mr. Taylor to "reach agreement with all peaceful political movements and parties on the specific nature of guarantees and mechanisms required for the conduct of open political debate and free, fair and inclusive elections."

Mr. Myrick also urged Mr. Taylor to "discipline members of the security forces and others who have threatened or used violence against political and civil society leaders."

Mr. Taylor has assumed broad new powers under a state of emergency he declared Feb. 8. His government has been fighting rebels in northern Liberia since 1999.

Mr. Myrick appealed to Mr. Taylor to "provide unconditional amnesty to all political opponents" and guarantee civil rights to all Liberians.

The ambassador also insisted that Mr. Taylor "cease supporting, arming or harboring" rebels of the Revolutionary United Front from Sierra Leone, Liberia's neighbor on the west coast of Africa.

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