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U.S.: Unity Not Possible With Mugabe

ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

Welcome back to All Things Considered from NPR News. I'm Andrea Seabrook. The U.S. government is getting tougher on Zimbabwe. The top American diplomat for Africa said today that if Robert Mugabe stays on as president, the power-sharing deal in that country won't work.

Ms. JENDAYI FRAZER (U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs): It's credible with Mugabe as the president of the power-sharing government, because he has demonstrated that he doesn't believe in power sharing.

SEABROOK: That's Jendayi Frazer, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. She's in South Africa today, and says the U.S. won't lift sanctions until Mugabe is gone. NPR's Charlayne Hunter-Gault was there, and she's with us now. Charlayne, so the U.S. is hardening its policy towards Zimbabwe. How much of a change is this?

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Well, this is a significant change, because back in September, they supported the power-sharing government, but Mugabe has behaved so badly in their view that they say they can no longer do this. And so now, the United States is ratcheting up its tough talk and hardening its policy towards the Zimbabwe government.

SEABROOK: Are we hearing the same kind of tough talk from the leaders of other countries in Southern Africa?

HUNTER-GAULT: No, and that's one of the reasons she was here. She says that they've been reluctant for various reasons of fearing a civil war. Here's what Jendayi Frazer said about that:

Ms. FRAZER: I'm hopeful that, you know, they will - what they say privately, they will come to say publicly, or, forget saying something - act on it.

SEABROOK: What about Mugabe himself? Why doesn't he just step down? Is he worried about being charged with crimes against humanity?

HUNTER-GAULT: Well, if he is, he hasn't said, but there is the example of Charles Taylor, the former Liberian president who is on trial for war crimes in The Hague. And the possibility that Mugabe would be charged looms out there. But there have been, according to Secretary Frazer, there have been assurances that he won't be charged.

SEABROOK: Charlayne, Zimbabwe's economy is in ruins. There's a scary outbreak of cholera. Mugabe says that outbreak is over, and he's even saying the U.S. and Britain started it?

HUNTER-GAULT: Well, yes. I mean, he's accusing Britain and the United States of actual germ warfare that created the terrible cholera situation. And by the way, the U.S. ambassador says there are thousands who have been affected and may have died as a result of this cholera. So, I asked Secretary Frazer why hadn't the United States or Britain responded, and she said, you know, it didn't even deserve a response. And here's what she said about Mugabe having made that accusation:

Ms. FRAZER: It's almost a scary statement, just like the one that says there's no cholera. Or his recent statement said, you know, Zimbabwe belongs to him. I think that it just speaks to a man who's lost it. Who's losing his mind, is out of touch with reality.

HUNTER-GAULT: And I think as I listen to Secretary Frazer today, I mean, I think she's optimistic that there is going to be some tougher action against Mugabe. The Security Council will meet in January, and she says she's expecting then, because of the changed circumstances, much tougher sanctions from the international community.

SEABROOK: NPR's Charlayne Hunter-Gault in Johannesburg, South Africa. Thanks very much, Charlayne.

HUNTER-GAULT: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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