Friday, July 31, 2009



Thursday, July 30, 2009

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will press South Africa to use its influence with Zimbabwe's hardline President Robert Mugabe when she is in Pretoria next week, a senior American official said on Thursday.

Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Johnnie Carson, said Clinton would urge the regional diplomatic heavyweight to get Mugabe to fully implement a power-sharing deal with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai so that impoverished Zimbabwe could return to democratic rule.

"We will encourage South Africa as a primary (regional) leader ... to press the government of Robert Mugabe to fully implement the global political agreement that he signed," Carson said of Clinton's meetings with the South Africans.

South African President Jacob Zuma has taken a harder line on Zimbabwe than his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, but the United States would like Zuma to do more to quicken the pace of reform in its neighbor.

Carson met Mugabe earlier this month on the sidelines of an African Unity summit in Libya, an encounter he described as a "little bit difficult." It was the highest level meeting by a U.S. official with Mugabe in many years, said Carson.

"We are trying to encourage reform, progress, commitment to the GPA and improved human rights. We will continue to do so," he said of his meeting with Mugabe.

The United States, troubled by what it sees as an absence of reform in Zimbabwe, has no plans either to offer major aid or to lift sanctions against Mugabe and some of his supporters.

Before any of that can happen, Washington wants more evidence of political, social and economic reforms, said a U.S. official.

Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, is blamed for plunging Zimbabwe into economic ruin. He argues that his country's economic woes, which include hyperinflation and a collapsed infrastructure, are caused by sanctions imposed by the United States and others.

Targeted U.S. sanctions include financial and visa restrictions against selected individuals, a ban on transfers of military items and a suspension of non-humanitarian aid.

Clinton leaves on Monday for a seven-nation trip to Africa. Aside from South Africa she will also visit Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Liberia, Nigeria and Cape Verde. She returns to Washington on August 14.

(Reporting by Sue Pleming; editing by Chris Wilson)