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U.S. Ambassador Speaks Out Again on Zimbabwe Crisis

U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell, who drew Harare's wrath in late 2005 with blunt criticism of its economic and human rights record, went back on the record Sunday in the Standard newspaper saying the the country has “passed the point of no return (in terms of) its ability to recover from (its) crisis without outside help."

Dell told the independent Sunday paper that the United States states is prepared to provide such help, but only if it sees “concrete actions that manifest a new approach” by the government of President Robert Mugabe with which it is currently at odds.

"We remain committed to helping the ordinary people of this country once again enjoy the freedom and prosperity that used to be the hallmark of Zimbabwe," said Dell, who was threatened last year with expulsion for comments considered undiplomatic and unfriendly by officials including Mr. Mugabe, who invited him to "go to hell."

The American ambassador in his Standard interview effectively repeated that analysis, citing “a broadconsensus that Zimbabwe is in desperate trouble." He asserted that the country “has brought this on itself largely due to the policies of its own government and those policies need to begin to change in order for the international community to make its contribution to the rebuilding and restoration of Zimbabwe.”

Mr. Dell could not be reached for immediate comment on his latest intervention, but a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy confirmed the accuracy of the Standard transcript.

Reporter Chinedu Offor of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe, seeking a response from the government, reached William Nhara, principal director of public affairs for President Mugabe, who said Dell's comments reflected what he characterized as a Western effort to bring about regime change by unconstitutional means.

But one international affairs specialist said Harare should take heed of Bell's analysis or expect to see the country collapse entirely. Parliamentary liaison officer Herman Honekom of the Africa Institute in Pretoria, South Africa, said Harare’s reaction is one of denial in the face of evidence the country is in a steep downward spiral.

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