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US puts citizens on alert

Staff Writer

THE United States government this week said US citizens should consider delaying planned trips to Zimbabwe until at least the end of the March.

l, Helvetica, sans-serif”>The State Department said in a statement that the security situation in the country ahead of the March poll was deteriorating as President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF moves to fight off the biggest challenge yet to his 40-year old ruling party from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

“US citizens residing in or travelling to Zimbabwe should be aware of continuing conditions that could adversely affect their personal security in the period preceding, during and possibly immediately after, the general election,” it said.

It urged Americans now in Zimbabwe to exercise caution when travelling within the country, avoid demonstrations and “refrain from taking pictures or videos of political rallies”.

“American citizens should consider postponement of non-essential travel until at least April 2005,” it said.

The statement noted that Mugabe, who the State Department has harshly criticised in recent months, had pushed through a tough new security law that makes it illegal to undermine the president’s authority or engender hostility towards him, including speaking negatively about him in public.

The law also makes it a crime to speak negatively of the police.

Two weeks ago Mugabe signed into law a Bill that would impose heavy curbs on local press and criminalise the journalism profession.

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