U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday urged Zimbabwe’s neighbors to put more pressure on President Robert Mugabe to accept a power-sharing deal and said a lack of regional prodding was “short-sighted.”

The United States is increasingly impatient with Mugabe’s refusal to agree to a power-sharing deal with the opposition. It also is critical of what it sees as neighbor South Africa’s kid-glove approach to the veteran African leader.

“Frankly we need more help from the region,” Rice told reporters. “It is short-sighted for the region to allow Mugabe to do this, and I believe that the region has the capacity to put enough pressure on him to get a reasonable power-sharing arrangement.”

Rice said that if the crisis were not resolved, the impact on South Africa would be greatest, pointing to the number of Zimbabwean refugees who had fled to the neighboring country.

Zimbabwe’s economy is in a free fall, with unemployment over 90 percent, inflation officially at 230 million percent, and a cholera outbreak spreading.

The call for more regional pressure came as Botswana’s foreign minister, Phandu Skelemani, said the 15-nation Southern African Development Community should confront Mugabe, in power since 1980.

So far the group has failed to persuade Mugabe and the opposition to implement the outline power-sharing deal signed in September.



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