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New U.S. Envoy Pledges 'Respectful Dialogue' With Harare

U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe Bruce Wharton
The United States' new ambassador to Zimbabwe, Bruce Wharton, started his official duties Thursday in Harare pledging to build respectful relations between the two countries and support the democratic agenda.

In a statement after presenting his credentials to President Robert Mugabe, Ambassador Wharton said Washington will continue backing efforts by Zimbabweans to create a prosperous and healthy society.

“We support the democratic reform process underway since the start of the Global Political Agreement and along with SADC and other friends of Zimbabwe, we will stand by the people as this process reaches its conclusion,” he said.

In an apparent reference to U.S. sanctions on Zimbabwe, the ambassador said Washington’s policy towards Harare was not static, adding that his country will make adjustments depending on the implementation of electoral and democratic reforms.

Wharton said besides his country's interest in the democratic agenda, economic growth, regional security, he is "personally interested in supporting women's empowerment, education, conservation, freedom of expression, and the rights of all people."

But political analyst Nkululeko Sibanda, lecturer at the Huddersfield University in Britain, warned that the ambassador's democratic agenda pledge puts him on a collision course with Mugabe's Zanu PF party, seen as resisting reform.

"I think this is where you are going to see antagonism coming back between America and Zanu PF. It doesn't look like there is going to be a normalization of relations because the Americans have conditioned this on the willingness by Zanu PF to institute changes," Sibanda commented.

Mr. Wharton takes over from Charles Ray whose mission ended last month.

Diplomatic ties between Washington and Harare have somewhat thawed in the past four years following the formation of the power-sharing government.

The U.S. imposed travel and economic sanctions on Mr. Mugabe and his inner circle a few years ago over alleged human rights violations, and relations have remained fragile since then.