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US, African Officials Seek To Brace Zimbabwe Power-Sharing Framework

With Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe expected to take the podium on Thursday in the United Nations General Assembly, concern is building in some quarters that he is less than fully committed to the unity government he has agreed to form.

U.S. concerns were reflected in a warning by a top official Tuesday to Mr. Mugabe and his long-ruling ZANU-PF party that Washington will pile on more sanctions against senior figures in Harare if it reneges on a power-sharing accord signed on Sept. 15.

The process of implementing power-sharing has virtually ground to a halt following the failure by the principals – Mr. Mugabe, MDC founder and prime minister designate Morgan Tsvangirai, and rival MDC leader Arthur Mutambara - or their negotiators to agree on the composition of the cabinet of the proposed unity government.

Comments from other ZANU-PF officials have suggested the party, whose leadership has told Mr. Mugabe he conceded too much, is edging away from its commitment.

Speaking with reporters at the U.N., U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer said Washington has a new batch of targeted sanctions ready to impose on Mr. Mugabe and other top officials if they fail to abide by the power-sharing deal.

But Frazer added that the State Department and other U.S. agencies are making plans to step up assistance to Zimbabwe under the right conditions, and to send in experts to help rebuild the economy, hollowed out by plunging output and hyper-inflation.

Confidence in the power-sharing process in Harare, eroded in recent days by the delay in naming a cabinet balanced between ZANU-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change, was bolstered somewhat on Wednesday by strong indications from African leaders that ex-president Thabo Mbeki would continue in his role as Zimbabwe mediator.

The Southern African Development Community and the African Union have declared that Mr. Mbeki should continue in his role as mediator.

SADC Spokesman Charles Mubita said Southern African regional leaders named Mr. Mbeki Zimbabwe mediator because of his deep knowledge of the situation in the country and his leadership skills, not because he was a sitting president.

In remarks to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, also AU chairman, dismissed concerns that Mr. Mbeki’s departure from the South African presidency posed a threat to the Zimbabwe process.

Zimbabwe’s ambassador to the United Nations, Boniface Chidyausiku, told reporter Blessing Zulu that Frazer’s comments on Tuesday were counterproductive.

Political analyst Pedzisayi Ruhanya said that if Harare fails to honor the deal the international community must express its strong disapproval.

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