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US not lifting Zim sanctions

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Outgoing United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Charles Ray yesterday said Washington would only lift sanctions against President Robert Mugabe and his inner circle if the country holds free and fair elections.

Ray told journalists in a farewell address in Harare that the US was worried about incidents of political violence.

“There are disturbing signs of potential violence,” he said.

“There have been disturbing reports recently that could be problematic in an election environment.”

At the weekend, MDC-T said eight of its supporters were injured during violent clashes with their Zanu PF counterparts over the use of a venue at Murombedzi business centre in Zvimba district.

Finance minister and MDC -T secretary-general Tendai Biti had been scheduled to address the rally on Sunday.

The previous weekend Biti had also been prevented from addressing a rally on the outskirts of Harare by soldiers.

On Monday, the European Union (EU) agreed to resume direct aid to Zimbabwe, but kept targeted sanction against Mugabe’s inner circle until the referendum on the new constitution.

Ray said the US would only lift its own set of sanctions after it is satisfied of the electoral conditions in Zimbabwe.

“Sanctions were a response to a violent electoral process,” he said.

“A credible electoral process free of violence and intimidation would make our current policies irrelevant. The ball is entirely in this court.

“It’s hard to say to my government they should do away with a policy that we put in place as a response to certain issues when those issues have not been adequately addressed.”

The US imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe in 2002 following a disputed presidential election and the violent land reform programme.

Ray also criticised the involvement of army generals in politics, saying the military must remain professional.

“The role of the military is to defend the nation,” he said.

“In order to do that they must develop a degree of professionalism. It means that military people, in order to remain professional and of service to the country, must delink their personal political convictions from the carrying out of their professional duties.”

Some army generals have openly pledged their support to Mugabe and Zanu PF vowing to block any democratic change.

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