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U.S. Boosting Travel, Financial Sanctions On Top Zimbabweans - State's Frazer

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer said Monday that the administration is expanding its list of top Zimbabwean officials and family members against whom travel and financial sanctions are imposed as a response to what she said was an increase in human rights violations by Harare and to increase pressure on the government of President Robert Mugabe for broad democratic reform.

She said the United States supports "without reservation" the crisis resolution process unfolding under the aegis of the Southern African Development Community. "However, Frazer added, "the ongoing human rights during the course of the SADC process call into question the Mugabe regime's true commitment to that process."

She cited the reported arrest and beating of 22 members of the National Constitutional Assembly, a civic group, who demonstrated Nov. 22 during a visit to Harare by South African President Thabo Mbeki, the principal mediator of the crisis negotiations. The National Constitutional Assembly demands a new "people-driven" constitution.

Frazer said she believed the Zimbabwean elections which the government has called for March 2008 would need to be postponed so that reforms agreed in South African-brokered crisis negotiations now in progress can be implemented to ensure that the presidential and general elections will be are free and fair. However, she deferred to the Zimbabwean parties involved as to the timing of those critical elections.

Frazer added that the crisis in Zimbabwe seemed unlikely to come to a resolution with a democratic transition of some sort until the middle to end of next year. Expectations that the collapse of the economy would "bring down" Mr. Mugabe's government have not been borne out, she acknowledged. "I think that we have a ways to go," Frazer said, "to a point where we have a change to democracy in that country."

Frazer told an audience at a forum on human rights in Zimbabwe organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington that violations of human rights including the arbitrary arrest and beatings of opponents of the government of President Robert Mugabe have not diminished although the political opposition and ruling party have been in crisis talks under South African mediation since March.

She said that in light of Mr. Mugabe's "escalated use of violence, United States will be imposing additional sanctions against the worst perpetrators of the regime's brutality." She said financial sanctions will be imposed on "several additional Zimbabweans not yet sanctioned who played a central role in" such human rights abuses, and two more companies that owned or controlled by "specially designated individuals."

She said the U.S. government had on Monday imposed travel sanctions on 38 more individuals "including nine state security officials involved in human rights abuses and anti-democratic activities in recent months."

Frazer said those affected by the travel sanctions include "at least five adult children" of Zimbabwean officials implicated in such activities who are studying in the United States. "It is intolerable that those closest to Mugabe are enjoying the privilege of sending their children to the United States for an education when they have destroyed the once outstanding educational system in their own country," she said.

However, Frazer said the sanctions could be reversed "once the politically motivated violence ceases and the government implements the reforms needed to restore Zimbabwe to what it once was, a democratic and prosperous country."

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