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U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe Calls For Free and Fair Elections

Amb. Christopher Dell tells VOA international scrutiny has helped decrease pre-election violence.

Washington, D.C., March 14, 2005 - Asked about the March 31 elections in Zimbabwe, U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell told the Voice of America (VOA), "We're not interested in the who of who is in power in Zimbabwe, we are interested in the how. If genuinely free and fair elections are held, if those elections reflect the genuine will of the people of Zimbabwe, then we will respect their choice no matter who is elected."

"These elections begin on an unleveled playing field," Dell said during yesterday's Studio 7 Sunday Newsmaker, a weekend feature of VOA's radio program to Zimbabwe. "The government of Zimbabwe controls all of the institutions involved in the elections, they have set the rules, they have set the terms of the debate," he added. Dell said that the support of the United States and other like-minded countries has been very important over the last few years in helping the democratic forces in Zimbabwe remain committed and effective in a very difficult environment.

Asked about the numerous incidents of violence against opposition party members during past elections (2000 and 2002), Dell responded, "I believe that the government and President Mugabe's political party very much understand that they are under intense international scrutiny about the conduct of these election...." Dell went on to say that as a result, "...there has been a marked decrease in violence over the previous two elections, that the opposition forces are being given more space in which to campaign, therefore they are having a significant ability to get out there to campaign, to reach the people of Zimbabwe."

Studio 7, VOA's radio program to Zimbabwe in the English, Shona and Ndebele languages, airs seven days a week from 7:00-8:00 PM locally. VOA recently launched Studio 7 in the Morning, a half-hour weekday program airing locally at 5:30 AM designed to provide listener listeners with in-depth information on their nation's March 31 parliamentary elections.

The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts more than 1,000 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of more than 100 million people. Programs are produced in 44 languages, including English.

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