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US Urges Harare To Address 'Real Issues,' Take Responsibility In Crisis

The United States has joined Britain and France in saying Harare should tackle internal issues like its collapsing economy instead of seeking bilateral talks with Great Britain on the premise - disputed by British officials - that differences with London over land reform led to the imposition of sanctions that in turn undermined the economy.

The statement issued by the U.S. embassy in Harare said Washington would welcome mediation in the Zimbabwe crisis by ex-President Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania if such mediation focused on “the real issues affecting Zimbabwe today.” Including what the U.S. statement described as a “sustained assault…on freedom and democracy.”

The statement said human rights and the rule of law in Zimbabwe have been eroded, and that flawed policies and endemic corruption have devastated the economy.

The embassy statement said the Mugabe administration’s proposal to hold bilateral talks with former colonial power Britain was a diversion “created by the government solely to distract attention from its own responsibility” for the national crisis.

The statement concluded that Mkapa might be able to make a meaningful contribution if he could “convince the government of Zimbabwe to acknowledge its responsibility for the crisis and to embrace the need for reforms and a national dialogue.”

Referring to President Robert Mugabe’s depiction of the crisis as caused by Western sanctions, the embassy said that it is "up to the government and people of Zimbabwe to recognize that the roots of the country’s current crisis lie within Zimbabwe, and …assume responsibility for devising viable solutions internally.”

Responding to the statement, Zimbabwe's Acting Information Minister Paul Mangwana said the United States is entitled to its opinion, but insisted land reform is the correct subject for bilateral Zimbabwean-British discussions to resolve the crisis.

Separately, opposition Movement for Democratic Change founding President Morgan Tsvangirai met with Botswanan President Festus Mogae in Gaborone on Thursday to discuss the impact of Zimbabwe's crisis on Botswana and Mkapa's initiative.

Zimbabwe’s problems have spilled over into Botswana, which has been publicly critical of Harare’s policies in contrast with most neighboring governments.

With Tsvangirai were faction Vice President Thokozana Khupe, Secretary for Foreign Affairs Eliphas Mukonoweshuro and Deputy Secretary General Lovemore Moyo.

Mukonoweshuro offered details on the talks and his analysis of the situation in an interview with reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe.

From Johannesburg, South Africa, political consultant Obri Matshiqi offered his view on the U.S. statement and the evolution of diplomacy in the Zimbabwean crisis.

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