The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: I'll Engage in Respectful Dialogue - U.S. Envoy

INCOMING United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr David Bruce Wharton said yesterday his country must be a good partner to Zimbabwe, but would only change its confrontational policy based on its views on constitutional reform and elections.

Relations between Zimbabwe and the US are at their lowest after Washington imposed illegal economic sanctions on Harare after being angered by the land reform programme.

Mr Wharton was among six new ambassadors who presented their credentials to President Mugabe at State House yesterday. The other envoys were from Belgium, Finland, Mozambique, Swaziland and Switzerland.

"I will begin my term here by listening and learning about the goals of the Zimbabwean people, and how the US can be a good partner," said Mr Wharton, while reading from a prepared speech.

"US policy towards Zimbabwe is not static, and will respond positively to Zimbabwe's progress on the roadmap to constitutional reform and elections."

Mr Wharton said he had a good discussion with President Mugabe on "where our relationship has been over the last few years, and how we would like it to develop in the coming years".

He pledged the US' support to Zimbabwe.

"When we differ on the best means of achieving those goals, I will seek to engage in a dialogue that is respectful and that seeks to uphold the universal values and rights that Zimbabweans fought so hard to gain 32 years ago," Mr Wharton said.

He said the US was promoting business linkages between the two countries by encouraging American investors to look closely at Zimbabwe's educated labour force and long-term growth potential.

Mr Wharton declined to grant the media an interview. He is returning to Zimbabwe after he once worked in the US Harare embassy about a decade ago. Switzerland's new envoy Mr Luciano Lavizzari said his country was neutral as it had no colonial ties with Zimbabwe.

"We have no hidden political agenda," said Mr Lavizzari.

"We are ready and prepared to give assistance for the electoral process and political dialogue among political parties."

When asked why Switzerland appeared bound by the EU position on Zimbabwe, Mr Lavizzari said: "We are not bound by that, but Switzerland is a small country.

We realise that our major trade partners are just around us and they all belong to the EU which we are not a member of and so we cannot just ignore this fact and sometimes we have to come to some level of compromise with them, especially because they are sometimes telling us that we might, through our neutrality, circumvent their own sanctions."

Mozambique's new ambassador Mr Pedro Jao Azvedo Davane said the situation in his country was calm despite threats by former rebel leader Mr Afonso Dhlakama to cause civil unrest.

"People are going through their daily normal life," he said.

"The most important thing you should keep in mind is that the mood in Mozambique and the mood in the region is not for war.

"We have seen first-hand horrors of war and the consequences of war. We have seen what peace brings. Since peace came to Mozambique, we have achieved tremendous successes."

Mr Davane said the Government was monitoring the situation closely. Finland ambassador Mr Pertti Anttinen said his country was following events in Zimbabwe closely.

"Zimbabwe is going through very interesting political times and trade wise there is a lot to do," he said.

Mr Solomon Dlamini, the new ambassador for Swaziland, said he looked forward to expanding the already cordial relations between his country and Zimbabwe.

He said Swaziland had a lot to benefit from Zimbabwe.

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