HARARE, Zimbabwe, March 2 (UPI) -- Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is campaigning against U.S.- and EU- imposed sanctions, citing their negative impact on his country's economy.
Mugabe denounced sanctions taken against his rule with a march by supporters Wednesday in Harare, the nation's capital, The Zimbabwean reported.
The march came as U.S. President Barack Obama alerted Congress he was extending U.S. sanctions that have been in place since 2003 for another year. The sanctions had been set to expire Sunday.
"The crisis constituted by the actions and policies of certain members of the government of Zimbabwe and other persons to undermine Zimbabwe's democratic processes or institutions has not been resolved," Obama said in an official notice released by the White House. "While some advances have been made in Zimbabwe, particularly on economic stabilization, since the signing of the power-sharing agreement, the absence of progress on the most fundamental reforms needed to ensure rule of law and democratic governance leaves Zimbabweans vulnerable to ongoing repression and presents a continuing threat to peace and security in the region and the foreign policy of the United States.
"Politically motivated violence and intimidation, and the undermining of the power-sharing agreement by elements of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front party, continue to be of grave concern. For these reasons, I have determined that it is necessary to continue this national emergency and to maintain in force the sanctions to respond to this threat."
Obama said the United States "welcomes the opportunity to modify the targeted sanctions regime when blocked persons demonstrate a clear commitment to respect the rule of law, democracy, and human rights."
"We hope that events on the ground will allow us to take additional action to recognize progress in Zimbabwe in the future. The goal of a peaceful, democratic Zimbabwe remains foremost in our consideration of any action."
In the days before the march, members of Mugabe's Zanu PF party in Mbare and other townships advised people to participate in the march.
The event is the first phase of Mugabe's campaign against sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union to pressure him to move the country to democracy. Future phases are expected to include people signing an anti-sanctions petition and a presentation of the petition to Western embassies, officials said.
Mugabe said the sanctions were negatively affecting his government's land reform program and inhibiting its black economic empowerment drive, The Zimbabwean reported.
"It is thus a responsibility of all political parties and all patriotic Zimbabweans to take a stand against these illegal sanctions by signing the anti-sanctions petition," read a Zanu PF ad running in The Herald, the official government newspaper.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Movement for Democratic Change leader Welshman Ncube said their party would not participate in the march.
Luke Tamborinyoka, Tsvangirai's spokesperson, said the march was a Zanu PF event.
"If it's a government event, it should have been deliberated in Cabinet and the Council of Ministers," the spokesman said. "It has been peddled as a party thing and therefore cannot be government business."
The Herald reported Mugabe would be the first to sign the petition and that Tsvangirai and his deputies were scheduled to sign the document as well.
Messages of support from business leaders, churches and representatives from farmer organizations would be included, the official government newspaper said.