Australia toughens sanctions on Zimbabwe

CANBERRA – Australia strengthened its targeted sanctions against Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe on Wednesday, but also announced more aid for the victims of the country's cholera outbreak.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said Australia would impose financial and visa restrictions on four extra companies and 75 more people who are known supporters of Mugabe’s government.

The move means 258 close Mugabe supporters now face bans on travel to or through Australia, and restrictions on financial transactions involving Australia.

"The strengthened sanctions are a clear signal that the Australian government holds the brutal Mugabe regime and its closest supporters accountable for the tragedy occurring in Zimbabwe," Smith said on Wednesday.

Mugabe, 84, has steadfastly refused calls to step down after losing elections and overseeing economic collapse in Zimbabwe, which is now gripped by a cholera epidemic that has killed almost 1,000 people.

"The best solution for Zimbabwe would be for Mr Mugabe and his regime’s close supporters to stand down to allow Zimbabwe to rebuild its economy, society, and democracy," Smith said.

He said Australia would provide an extra A$1 million in emergency relief to help those affected by the cholera epidemic, with the money to go to non-government agencies.