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US Ambassador To Zimbabwe Sees 'Wheels Coming Off' In Harare

U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell said Tuesday he sees the "wheels coming off" for the government of President Robert Mugabe, which is facing mounting labor unrest and a renewed challenge from its political opponents.

Asked for his analysis of the current turmoil in Zimbabwe, Dell responded, "I think what we're seeing is the beginning of the wheels coming off the wagon in Zimbabwe." He said hyperinflation of 1,600% has "eroded the regime's ability to sustain itself."

With observers speculating that the country's economic collapse and the consequent strikes by public workers including doctors and teachers could force President Robert Mugabe to step down, Dell said the paramount consideration for the United States is that Zimbabwe hold a democratic presidential election on schedule in 2008.

He was asked whether the U.S. government would be willing to work with the current ruling ZANU-PF party under a new leadership were Mr. Mugabe to leave.

"We've always made clear that the question for us is not who, but how - how the country is governed, not by whom," Dell said. "As long as the country is governed by democratic norms and standards, as long as the government of Zimbabwe pursues sound economic policies that lead to prosperity and well-being for its own people, we're prepared to work with any such government."

Dell was speaking in a live interview with hosts Ndimyake Mwakalyelye and Chris Gande of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe.

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