HARARE - The United States (US) will move to improve ties with the Zimbabwean government and lift visa and financial sanctions against President Robert Mugabe and his inner circle once the southern African country's coalition government acts to ensure democracy and uphold human rights, Washington's top diplomat in Harare said on Friday.
Washington and the European Union slapped sanctions on Mugabe and his top lieutenants in 2002 accusing them of gross human rights violations following years of stolen elections, state-sanctioned murders and forced disappearances and political violence.
The Western nations also cut direct support to the Zimbabwean government although maintaining humanitarian assistance to the country.
But ambassador Charles Ray told hundreds of students gathered in Harare to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr Day, that Washington was willing to turn over a new leaf in relations with Harare and would support a government in Zimbabwe working to improve the lives of ordinary citizens.
He said: "Our position is that the people of Zimbabweans deserve a country that fulfils their legitimate need; we would very much like to see the situation evolve into one where people can exercise their rights freely, right to earn a living to be free from torture or oppression and self determination.
"It's just basic common sense if you have a society where people can't fulfil their potential, how can that society fulfil its potential. If you hold people back you hold society back."
Turning to the issue of the punitive measures against Mugabe and his top allies Ray said: "I have hope that there will be an improvement in the situation here so that there can be movement in the US. It's an issue that gets discussed a lot between me and the policy makers in Washington."
The power-sharing government of Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Premier Arthur Mutambara has done well to stabilise Zimbabwe's economy and end inflation that was estimated at more than a trillion percent at the height of the country's economic meltdown last year.
But unending squabbles between Mugabe's ZANU PF party and Tsvangirai's MDC as well as the coalition government's inability to secure direct financial support from rich Western nations have held back the administration's efforts to rebuild the economy. - ZimOnline