- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 15, 2009

President-elect Barack Obama’s nominee to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations pledged Thursday to pressure China and Russia with “quiet diplomacy” to withdraw backing for Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe.

“I’ll reach out very early on to my Russian and Chinese counterparts,” Susan Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during her confirmation hearing. “There is no logical reason why Russia and China can’t separate themselves from the regime of Robert Mugabe.”

She promised “quiet diplomacy to maximize their willingness to join with us” in ensuring that Mr. Mugabe relinquishes his grip on power.

The U.S. and many other nations called on Mr. Mugabe to step down after his party lost disputed elections last year amid a collapsing economy and threats of mass starvation in a nation once considered the breadbasket of southern Africa.

Mr. Mugabe blames his nation’s woes on interference by the West.

Russia and China have consistently blocked U.N. Security Council efforts to condemn Mr. Mugabe, his policies and his administration’s tactics such as kidnapping and torture to remain in power.

“There have been moving speeches, but there is a deficit of determination to take difficult steps to call to account dictators such as Mugabe” she said. “We need too bring private condemnation into the public sphere.”

Ms. Rice, who was Mr. Obama’s chief foreign-policy adviser during the presidential campaign and played a major role in formulating most of his positions, spoke confidently on various issues during her hearing.

She said the Obama administration will work to “build additional U.N. peacekeeping capacity to address” the challenges in many conflict-torn countries. There are currently 90,000 U.N. peacekeepers in 16 missions around the world.

“I know the U.N. sometimes deeply frustrates Americans,” she said, but it is still “indispensable” in maintaining global security. “We should pay our dues in full and on time.”

Her other main priorities in New York, she added, will be climate change, “preventing the spread and use of nuclear weapons” and combating poverty.

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