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Zimbabwean Officials Shrug Off Boosted U.S. Sanctions As 'Nothing New'

A Zimbabwean government spokesman on Tuesday dismissed the announcement by Jendayi Frazer, the top U.S. State Department official for Africa, that Washington was boosting travel and financial sanctions against Harare's ruling elite on grounds that human rights violations and political repression have increased in the country.

The Web-based news agency ZimOnline quoted Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga as saying the sanctions were old news and would not have an impact.

“There is nothing new in what they are saying. We have heard this before and it failed to work. They are actually wasting their time because we are now doing business with friendly countries,” Matonga said, referring to the economic ties with China, Malaysia and other Asian nations Harare has developed to offset isolation from the West.

Frazer in a speech Monday at a Washington think tank accused the government of President Robert Mugabe of stepping up political repression even as representatives of his ruling ZANU-PF party engaged in crisis resolution talks with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change under South African mediation.

She said that in light of Mr. Mugabe's "escalated use of violence, United States will be imposing additional sanctions against the worst perpetrators of the regime's brutality." She said financial sanctions will be imposed on "several additional Zimbabweans not yet sanctioned who played a central role in" such human rights abuses. She said the U.S. Monday imposed travel sanctions on 38 more individuals "including nine state security officials involved in human rights abuses and anti-democratic activities."

Frazer said those affected include "at least five adult children" of Zimbabwean officials implicated in such activities who are studying in the United States.

Zimbabwean Ambassador to the United Nations Boniface Chidyausiku told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the U.S. sanctions were nothing new, but maintained that it was an "abuse of human rights" to impose sanctions on the sons and daughters of senior Zimbabwean officials studying at U.S. universities.

Chidyausiku said the U.S. decision to expand sanctions jeopardized the crisis talks led by South African President Thabo Mbeki - charging that this was in fact the intent.

Nairobi-based human rights lawyer Brian Kagoro said U.S. sanctions have not forced Harare to reform and that African states must be more active resolving the crisis.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...