10 June 2009

Zimbabwe: PM, Obama Clash Looms

Harare — PRIME Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is set to clash with US President Barack Obama when they meet on Friday as Washington has already announced that it will dig in on sanctions while the Prime Minister has a brief from President Mugabe and Cabinet to press for the lifting of the sanctions.

Reuters quoted US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Mr Johnnie Carson, as saying: "There is no indication that the US government is prepared to lift economic sanctions."

A White House Statement that confirmed the Friday meeting set for the Oval Office said discussions would centre on "how the United States can support the forces of reform as they work to bring the rule of law, respect of human rights, free and fair elections".

PM Tsvangirai, however, is on assignment from the President and Cabinet to press for the removal of sanctions and restoration of the country's lines of credit.

Mr Carson said there was need for social and economic reforms before the sanctions can be lifted.

"Increasing substantial aid is dependent upon them making political concessions and fulfilling the agreements that they have made and in returning the country back towards more democratic rule."

The Government has already instituted a number of reforms by launching the Short-Term Emergency Recovery Programme and embarking on a constitution-making process among other things.

"The President looks forward to welcoming Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai of Zimbabwe to the Oval Office on Friday, June 12," the Office of the Press Secretary said.

"The two leaders will discuss the difficult road ahead in Zimbabwe."

The Bush administration imposed economic sanctions on Zimbabwe when Bush signed the so-called Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act on December 22, 2001 after the Government embarked on the land reform programme to address colonial land imbalances.

The US sanctions law binds US executive directors to each multilateral or financial institution to vote against the extension of loans, credit, credit guarantees or cancellation of indebtedness to the Government of Zimbabwe until the US president authorises them to do so.

The Obama administration extended the sanctions in March this year despite repeated calls by the inclusive Government, Sadc, Comesa and the African Union for their removal.

In refusing to lift sanctions, the US President claimed Zimbabwe had not resolved "its political crisis" and continued to pose "an unusual, and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States".

Before visiting the US, PM Tsvangirai was in the Netherlands on Monday where he met Dutch Prime Minister Mr Jan Peter Balkenende and Development Co-operation Minister Mr Bert Koenders.

The Dutch government turned down PM Tsvangirai's request for the lifting of economic sanctions and a financial package saying they wanted to see more reforms.

PM Tsvangirai said the objective of his visit was to educate "our partners" on political developments in the country.

He said Zimbabwe had been "isolated for the last 10 years" and it was time to normalise relations.

PM Tsvangirai is expected to also visit France, Britain, Sweden and Belgium.

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