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U.S. steps up sanction pressure on Zimbabwe

/ Source: The Associated Press

The Bush administration on Wednesday imposed financial sanctions on Zimbabwe's intelligence chief, President Robert Mugabe's nephew and two companies accused of undermining democracy in the southern African country.

The Treasury Department's action means that any bank accounts or other financial assets found in the United States that belong to those designated must be frozen. Americans also are forbidden from doing business with them.

It marks the government's latest move to apply more financial pressure on Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, who over the years has become increasingly authoritarian, spearheading media control and takeovers of white-owned farms.

The United States recently criticized Mugabe for abruptly setting presidential and parliamentary elections for March 29, earlier than expected. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change had demanded constitutional and electoral reforms before the election and said polling should be delayed until June to allow for its demands to be met.

"The U.S. financial system is closed to Robert Mugabe, his cohorts and their businesses," said Adam Szubin, director of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, the agency that administers and enforces financial sanctions. "Today's designations are part of an increased effort to pressure those who are aiding Mugabe's efforts to cripple Zimbabwe, including through violence and intimidation."

The U.S. order on Wednesday covers two people — Happyton Bonyongwe, director of Zimbabwe's Central Intelligence Organization, considered the country's spy chief, and Leo Mugabe, the president's nephew and a member of the Zimbabwe Parliament.

Also covered are two businesses — ZIDCO Holdings and Jongwe Printing and Publishing Co. The department alleges that both entities are owned or controlled by "key components of the Mugabe regime" that have previously been put on the United States financial sanctions list. The department provided no further details.