UNITED States President George Bush has warned for the first time that Zimbabwe poses a “continuing unusual and extraordinary threat” to his country’s foreign policy.
This came hard on the heels of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice branding Zimbabwe an “outpost of tyranny” alongside North Korea, Iran, Burma, Belarus and Cuba in January.
North Korea and Iran, which has close relations with Zimbabwe, were named as the “axis of evil” together with Iraq three years ago.
Renewing targeted sanctions against President Robert Mugabe and 80 of his cronies on Wednesday, Bush said he would continue to use national emergency powers to deal with Zimbabwe’s political and economic crisis.
“The crisis constituted by the actions and policies of certain members of the government of Zimbabwe and other persons to undermine Zimbabwe’s democratic processes or institutions has not been resolved,” Bush said in a message to the US Congress.
“These actions and policies pose a continuing unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States.”
The US imposed targeted sanctions against Zimbabwean leaders in 2002, citing political repression and human rights abuses.
The measures included travel bans, an asset freeze and an arms embargo. The European Union and Switzerland has imposed similar measures, while Canada only slapped Zimbabwe with an arms embargo. US former Secretary of State Colin Powell started the US crusade against Zimbabwe during a visit to SA in 2001.
He warned at the time that his country would continue to ratchet up pressure and take further measures against Mugabe’s regime.
US ambassador to SA Jendayi Fraser last week also complained about the situation in Zimbabwe and expressed exasperation about regional leaders’ inertia.
President Thabo Mbeki has said it is an exaggeration to call Zimbabwe an “outpost of tyranny”. On Wednesday he said the situation in Zimbabwe was improving ahead of the general election on March 31.
Bush, who discussed Zimbabwe with Mbeki in Pretoria in July 2003, said he would keep the situation under review.
“For these reasons, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency blocking the property of persons undermining democratic processes or institutions in Zimbabwe and to maintain in force the sanctions to respond to this threat,” he said.
“I have sent to the Federal Register for publication the enclosed notice (to Congress) stating that the national emergency blocking the property of persons undermining democratic processes or institutions in Zimbabwe is to continue in effect beyond March 6, 2005.”