A senior U.S. State Department official has ruled out lifting of sanctions imposed on Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and more than 200 members of his inner circle, saying supporters of Mr. Mugabe's former ruling ZANU-PF party have continued to violate human rights, most recently in the nation's constitutional revision process.
State Department officials said Mr. Mugabe and his two fellow principals in the Harare unity government - Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara of a rival MDC formation - should speak out against continuing abuses including political violence.
The U.S. position was communicated on Thursday to a three-member Zimbabwe ministerial delegation that met with Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Johnnie Carson on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Susan Page told VOA that Harare has not sufficiently reformed to warrant a review of U.S. restrictive measures despite the formation of the unity government in 2009.
"Frankly, as long as these violations of human rights, this lack of respect for civilian and political rights of the people of Zimbabwe, as long as they continue, the sanctions must remain", Page said.
Addressing the General Assembly on Tuesday, President Mugabe blamed the sanctions for Harare’s failure to reach Millennium Development Goals as well as to turn its battered economy around.
Page rejected this argument. "The targets are individuals and a few institutions that we believe have been responsible for the policies and the actions that have to led to Zimbabwe's both economic and political decline," Page said, rejecting the proposition that sanctions were responsible for Zimbabwe's economic woes.
Sources said Harare enlisted the support of South African President Jacob Zuma, mediator in Zimbabwe on behalf of the Southern African Development Community, and Malawian President Bingu Wa Mutharika, currently chairman of the African Union, to make Harare's case with the United States and the European Union.
Speaking at the U.N. on Thursday, Mr. Wa Mutharika said the sanctions have outlived their time.
Zimbabwean Energy Minister Elton Mangoma, representing the Tsvangirai MDC formation in the delegation, said the meeting with Carson was a step in the right direction. But Mugabe aide Didymus Mutasa, who is also ZANU-PF secretary for administration, says he was not surprised by the American position to leave sanctions in place.
Mutasa, a minister of state, called the U.S. position inhumane.
Political analyst George Mkhwanazi told reporter Brenda Moyo that African leaders calling for an end to sanctions don’t seem to understand how much harm Mr. Mugabe has caused the people of Zimbabwe.