JOHANNESBURG - The United States pressed fellow UN Security Council members yesterday to impose sanctions to push for change in Zimbabwe, where leaders cannot agree whether to even talk about how to resolve their crisis amid fears of worsening political violence.
Washington's proposed draft resolution calls for freezing the financial assets of President Robert Mugabe and 11 of his officials and banning them from traveling outside the country.
The text, obtained by the Associated Press, also demands that Mugabe's regime immediately begin negotiations on forming a unity government with the opposition, although Zimbabwe's top opposition leader ruled out talks under current conditions.
The United States, which is among Mugabe's sharpest international critics, was president of the Security Council last month. Last week, the council passed a nonbinding resolution condemning violence against Zimbabwe's political opposition after South Africa, China, and Russia opposed taking further action.
Washington also is considering toughening its unilateral sanctions. The US ambassador to Zimbabwe, James McGee, said in an interview yesterday that could include expanding the list of about 130 officials now banned from visiting the United States and hit with financial penalties.
European Union spokesman John Clancy said the bloc also was studying sanctions to add to travel bans and an asset freeze already in place on Mugabe, his Cabinet ministers, and top ruling party officials.
New penalties could include further aid cuts or bars on European companies from doing business in Zimbabwe.
The US ambassador said violence and intimidation continues, even touching an embassy employee.
McGee said a Zimbabwean driver for the embassy disappeared three days ago. The man emerged yesterday to say he had been accosted by unknown assailants, blindfolded, and taken to a small room where he was questioned and denied food or water for three days.
The envoy would not describe the questions, but said the incident appeared to be an attempt to intimidate people connected with the embassy. McGee has been a vocal and frequent critic of Mugabe.
"The violence seems to be at least at the same level [as before the runoff]. It may even be getting worse," McGee said in an interview. "People continue to disappear."