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Zimbabwe Minister Reacts to U.S. Expansion of Targeted Sanctions on Harare

Responding to the expansion of U.S. sanctions targeting top Zimbabwean officials, one of President Robert Mugabe’s key ministers said the executive order signed this week by President Bush would affect ordinary people more than government figures.

President Bush signed an executive order Wednesday freezing the U.S. assets of 128 people and 33 institutions in Zimbabwe. This expanded an original list of 77 people, including President Mugabe, whose assets were frozen in 2003. Those on the list are also barred from travel in the United States except to United Nations functions.

The new list includes all cabinet members, their spouses and children. The U.S. government also added the former and current directors of the Central Intelligence Organization, the army and the police. Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono, usually regarded as relatively moderate and reform-oriented, was also put on the list.

State Security Minister Didymus Mutasa, who is also responsible for food security in the economically and politically distressed Southern African nation, said the sanctions “affect the ordinary man in the street because the assistance we were getting from bilateral agreements and from world bodies like the World Bank have been stopped.”

U.S. officials including Ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell have taken issue with Harare’s contention that the U.S.-led sanctions– the European Union has also imposed such measures – is responsible for Zimbabwe’s economic collapse.

Mr. Dell recently told a Zimbabwe audience that mismanagement and corruption were to blame. The White House issued a statement saying the sanctions will continue to be expanded until Zimbabwe restores democratic norms and the rule of law.

Mr. Bush told congressional leaders in a letter that Harare continues to suppress opposition and civil society groups, undermine the independent media and ignore judicial decisions. He said Zimbabwe’s parliamentary elections in March were not free or fair, and urged the ruling party to open a dialogue with the opposition.

Reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe sought comment on the latest expansion of the sanctions from state security minister Mutasa.

For an outside perspective, reporter Zulu spoke with researcher Chris Maroleng of the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, South Africa.

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