Source Pravda.Ru

Mugabe has failed to weaken his hold on power

A panel of experts on Zimbabwe admitted frustration Tuesday that international pressure against President Robert Mugabe has failed to weaken his hold on power.

Tom Woods, a top African affairs official at the State Department, said the grim prospect for Zimbabweans is that Mugabe will remain in power until his term ends in 2008. Under Mugabe's rule, Woods said, the south African country has suffered an economic decline of 40 percent in recent years and a brain drain that is probably irreversible.

Zimbabwe could become "a failed state or a failing state," Woods said, speaking to a gathering at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He said the world should support growing pressures for change in Zimbabwe and act to save the people of Zimbabwe from the "worst aspects" of Mugabe's rule.

In recent years, he said, the United States has provided $300 million (Ђ246.8 million) in food aid to Zimbabwe, "a country that used to feed itself and the region." The United States has been denying visas to top Zimbabwean government officials for years, and Woods said that policy may be extended to their family members.

Chris Maroleng, a Zimbabwean citizen who addressed the center by videophone hookup from South Africa, said the African Union must speak out more forcefully against Mugabe. He added that South Africa, "instead of providing support for Mugabe, should do nothing."

John Prendergast, of the International Crisis Group, which monitors global trouble spots, derided what he called "the wait, see and hope" attitude of the outside world toward Zimbabwe. Its pressure consists of "small twigs, not meaningful sticks" and "does not influence policy-makers in Zimbabwe," Prendergast said, AP reports.