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US urges Zimbabwe to ensure safety of US diplomats

ZANU PF supporters welcome Zimbabwe President and party leader Robert Mugabe  in Bulawayo, on December 8, 2011
ZANU PF supporters welcome Zimbabwe President and party leader Robert Mugabe in Bulawayo, on December 8, 2011. The US ambassador Thursday called on Zimbabwe to ensure the safety of its diplomatic staff, after he was prevented from giving a speech by 130 Z

The United States Thursday called on Zimbabwe to ensure the safety of its diplomatic staff, after the US ambassador was prevented from giving a speech in the eastern city of Mutare.

Ambassador Bruce Wharton had been on his first visit to Manicaland province to observe USAID projects and meet with business people on Wednesday, and had been due to give a speech at a library, the State Department said.

He was met by about 130 supporters of President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party, and spent "about 15 to 20 minutes listening to their messages, but the protesters refused to engage in constructive conversation," the statement said.

He did not manage to give his speech.

"The United States recognizes the critical need to work together to build a way forward but believes that this must begin with a respectful sharing of ideas," the State Department said.

"We call on the Government of Zimbabwe to ensure the safety and security of diplomatic personnel, and to condemn the harassment and intimidation of peaceful exchanges between the US and the Zimbabwean people."

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