Envoy: US ready to review Zimbabwe sanctions By KITSEPILE NYATHI in Harare | Thursday, November 15  2012 at  15:24

 Robert Mugabe
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe.   FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The US is ready to change its policy on Zimbabwe if the country holds a credible referendum on a new constitution and General Election next year, Washington’s envoy to Harare has said.

Newly appointed ambassador Bruce Wharton made the pledge Thursday during his first meeting with President Robert Mugabe in Harare, where they discussed bilateral relations.

“President Mugabe and I had a good discussion of where our relationship has been over the last few years, and how we would like it to develop in the coming years,” Mr Wharton said after the meeting.

“I delivered President (Barack) Obama’s greeting to President Mugabe and expressed the US Government’s sincere desire to find common ground to enhance the bilateral relationship.”

The US has maintained targeted sanctions against imposed against Zimbabwe since 2002, after disputed presidential elections.

Calls by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to review the embargo following the formation of an inclusive government have been ignored by Washington.

However, the European Union has relaxed its own set of sanctions against President Mugabe and his inner circle and promised to lift the embargo entirely if Zimbabwe held a credible General Election.

Mr Wharton added that the US future policy on Zimbabwe would be determined by progress on democratic reforms.

Rights violations

“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.

“US policy toward Zimbabwe is not static, and will respond positively to Zimbabwe’s progress on the roadmap to constitutional reform and elections.”

He said his country was active in supporting Zimbabwe’s health, agriculture, business and cultural and civil society sectors.

“We provide ongoing support to the Zimbabwean parliament and constitution-making; and we have invested more than $1 billion in health and humanitarian assistance in the last 10 years,” the envoy added.

“The US also promotes business linkages, encouraging American investors to look closely at Zimbabwe’s educated labour force and long-term growth potential.”

Previous US envoys to Zimbabwe have been accused of interference by President Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party, which blames Western countries for sponsoring opposition parties to topple it.

Washington insists that the targeted sanctions were meant to push the party to end human rights violations.