By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 26, 2008
President Bush yesterday signed an executive order expanding sanctions against companies and individuals linked with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, part of an effort by Western nations to ratchet up the pressure on a government accused of killing and terrorizing political opponents in order to remain in power.
The move by Bush, which followed a similar maneuver earlier in the week by the European Union, freezes any U.S. assets and forbids U.S. financial transactions with a list of companies controlled by or affiliated with the government, particularly in the mining and minerals industry, a key sector of Zimbabwe's ailing economy.
"This action is a direct result of the Mugabe regime's continued politically-motivated violence, disregarding calls from the Southern African Development Community, the African Union, and the United Nations to halt the attacks," Bush said in a statement.
"No regime should ignore the will of its own people and calls from the international community without consequences," he added.
The sanctions followed an agreement earlier this week by Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai to begin talks aimed at solving Zimbabwe's political and economic crisis, including an inflation rate that now ranks as the highest in the world. The pact was seen as a victory for Tsvangirai, who pulled out of a runoff election in June amid alleged state-sponsored killings of his supporters.
The Bush administration, joined by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, has had only limited success in persuading other nations to endorse increased sanctions against Mugabe's government. Earlier this month, Russia and China vetoed a U.S.-sponsored Security Council resolution that would have imposed an arms embargo.
Stephen Morrison, an Africa expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the additional sanctions may have a greater psychological impact than an immediate economic one because Zimbabwe's economy is already devastated.
"You've already got a lot of nervousness that Zimbabwe is nearing the point of bottoming out," Morrison said. ". . . But the idea of the U.S. and Europeans putting this in force could raise pressure on the region to do more."
Bush said in his announcement yesterday that if the talks "result in a new government that reflects the will of the Zimbabwean people," then the United States will provide "a substantial assistance package" that would include development aid and a withdrawal of sanctions. Bush also said he was authorizing up to $2.5 million in aid for refugees displaced by violence.
The United States already had imposed sanctions against Mugabe, his family and key associates. Bush's new order targets 17 state-controlled businesses, such as the Minerals Marketing Corp. of Zimbabwe, a state-owned export company, and Zimbabwe Iron and Steel, the nation's largest steel works. Also named is Thamer Bin Saeed Ahmed al-Shanfari, an Omani national with ties to Mugabe and his top officials, according to the Treasury Department.