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Ambassador Wharton Says America Reviewing Zimbabwe Situation

FILE - Ambassador Bruce Wharton at Naletale National Monument with Gweru mayor Hamutendi Kombayi (left) and Norbert Nhutsve (right), regional director of National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe. (Photo/Taurai Shava)

The United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Bruce Wharton, says his country is continuously reviewing the situation in Zimbabwe as it seeks ways to improve relations between the two countries.

Mr. Wharton said relations will improve with the change of conditions on the ground in Zimbabwe.

Speaking to journalists at the Naletale Monument in Gweru on Wednesday, he said regular high-level meetings between his embassy and some government officials are being held as they seek ways to review relations between Washington and Harare.

Relations between Zimbabwe and the United States have been frosty following America's imposition of targeted sanctions on President Robert Mugabe, some senior Zanu PF members and some state-owned companies, citing human rights abuses and alleged electoral fraud.

Mr. Mugabe has consistently blamed Zimbabwe's economic problems on the sanctions. Europe, New Zealand, Australia and Canada also imposed the so-called targeted measures on Harare following the 2002 disputed elections.

Ambassador Wharton said his embassy closely monitors the Zimbabwean situation in order to advise Washington on how it should act regarding Zimbabwe-U.S. relations.

The U.S. this year renewed the targeted sanctions, saying not much has changed on the ground for them to lift the measures.

The ambassador disagreed with the view that the targeted sanctions are hurting the ordinary people more than the targeted politicians, asserting that Zimbabwe's poor policies are to blame.

Ambassador Wharton had visited Naletale Monument, about 80 kilometers south west of Gweru, in Shangani, which is being restored following a $64,000 grant provided by the U.S. Embassy to the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe. The grant was availed through the Ambassadors Fund.

Ambassador Wharton described the restoration work as an example of a genuine partnership between the U.S. and Zimbabwe, saying such developments serve Zimbabwe's interests.

The monument is a tourist attraction.

Wharton said while Zimbabwe competes with other countries for tourists, it has a lot of unique attributes, including a proud welcoming people and beautiful natural attractions that put it in a good position to attract more tourists.

The restoration of Naletale is being done by the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe in collaboration with students from the Midlands State University and the University of Zimbabwe.

Nyasha Gurira, a master's student in Cultural Heritage Studies at MSU, said the restoration not only helps students like her, but would benefit the nation at large as it preserves the national heritage.

Naletale is the country's third national monument after the Victoria Falls and the Great Zimbabwe.

The monument, built in the dry stone wall style of what is known in archaeology as the Zimbabwe tradition, was - like most similar monuments around the country - constructed by the Torwa and the Rozvi, who are the fore-fathers of the Shona tribe.

Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chief executive Karikoga Kaseke, who accompanied the ambassador on his visit, thanked the U.S. government for sponsoring the restoration of the monument.