U.S. looks to punish Zimbabwe

President Bush said Tuesday that the U.S. is looking at ways to punish Zimbabwean leaders after China and Russia blocked sanctions at the United Nations last week.

Bush said that he was “displeased” with China's and Russia's actions and added that the State and Treasury departments “are now working on potential U.S. action.”

The U.S. wants to punish Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's authoritarian government for a widely discredited presidential election. Mugabe claimed victory in a June 27 presidential runoff in which he was the only candidate.

Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Jendayi Frazer, told a Senate hearing later Tuesday that the new U.S. sanctions will target both individuals and government institutions.

She said that the United States is working with European and African countries to exert pressure on Mugabe's government through sanctions. She said that Zimbabwe's economy is oriented toward Europe, which can therefore bring the most pressure to bear.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also weighed in on Tuesday, warning that Southern Africa will face “perennial instability” until the will of Zimbabwe's people is reflected in its government.

Opposition seeks a second mediator

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe's opposition said Tuesday that it hopes a meeting this week between the South African president and a top African Union official will result in a second mediator joining efforts to resolve their nation's crisis.

But South Africa's deputy foreign minister said the issue of a mediator besides President Thabo Mbeki was a “fake argument.”

That sharp difference of opinion on what Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has raised as a central issue does not bode well for Mbeki's efforts to guide Tsvangirai and Mugabe toward ending a deadly political crisis and putting Zimbabwe's ravaged economy on the road to recovery. Tsvangirai has accused Mbeki of bias in favor of Mugabe.

“There's no progress (in getting talks started) and there will not be any progress until there's an expansion of the mediation team,” Tsvangirai spokesman George Sibotshiwe said Tuesday. He said he hoped Jean Ping, the AU's chief executive – who is due in South Africa on Friday to be briefed by Mbeki on his progress so far – will persuade Mbeki to bring on another mediator.