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US Extends Zimbabwe Sanctions Even As PM Tsvangirai Urges Their Lifting

U.S President Barack Obama has extended sanctions aimed at President Robert Mugabe and other senior officials, supporters and enterprises tied to the former ZANU-PF government in an action coinciding with an appeal by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai for the sanctions to be lifted to help the country pull itself out of its profound economic crisis.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwean authorities continued to hold Roy Bennett, a senior official in Mr. Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change who has been designated deputy minister of agriculture. Bennett, held by police in the eastern city of Mutare, is charged with possession of weapons for purposes of "terrorism, banditry and insurgency." The country's high court has twice ordered him freed on bail, but prosecutors have filed repeated appeals.

Correspondent Irwin Chifera of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reported on the latest turn in the case in which the Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal by prosecutors.

The White House issued a statement Wednesday saying President Obama was extending targeted financial and travel sanctions on more than 250 individuals and companies linked to the Mugabe administration because "the actions and policies of these persons continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States.”

Mr. Tsvangirai issued an appeal for Western sanctions to be lifted in a speech delivered on Wednesday in the Zimbabwean House of Assembly.

U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesman Gordon Duguid made clear in remarks to reporters on Thursday that the Obama administration has not seen enough change from the Mugabe side of the new Harare government to warrant lifting sanctions.

“We have not seen a release of political prisoners in as large numbers as there should be," he said, also citing a "consistent lack of commitment" on ZANU-PF's part to power sharing. "And much remains to be done to gain the confidence of the international community."

He said the Harare government must release all detainees, end political violence and intimidation, repeal repressive laws, open up access for humanitarian and non-governmental organizations, and demonstrate a commitment to fundamental economic reform.

Political analyst John Makumbe, a professor at the University of Zimbabwe, told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that he approves of the U.S decision to extend the sanctions because the unity government installed Feb. 13 has not broken decisively with the previous administration and human rights violations continue.

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