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US Ambassador Rebuffs Southern African Call To Lift Zimbabwe Sanctions

The United States will not lift sanctions aimed at Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and his inner circle as a summit of Southern African leaders urged last week, unless Harare creates a “genuinely free political space” and institutes sweeping economic reforms, U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell said Wednesday.

Dell, in a wide-ranging interview with VOA, was responding to a communique issued by last week's Southern African Development Community summit, which also named South African President Thabo Mbeki its as mediator in the Zimbabwe crisis.

Dell dismissed the call for U.S. sanctions to be lifted. "It's simply not going to happen," the ambassador said in a telephone interview from the Harare embassy.

"We will not lift the targeted measures against these named individuals until such time as they take the steps required to create a genuinely free political space in this country, and to begin to right some of the economic damage that their own misguided and greedy policies have caused," Dell said.

Zimbabwe's crisis sharpened in March as the opposition stepped up its challenge to Mr. Mugabe, whose government responded with a crackdown on opponents including the use of deadly force against protesters and alleged police beatings of prisoners.

International outrage fueled by images of the badly beaten opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, founding president of the Movement for Democratic Change, prompted the regional group to call an extraordinary summit last week in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania.

Ambassador Dell told VOA reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyele that although the Southern African leaders did not publicly criticize Mr. Mugabe, the summit was useful because they were tough on him in private and launched a new mediation initiative.

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