ABIDJAN -- President Emmerson Mnangagwa claims that the United States government made its recent decisionto extend sanctions against Zimbabwe on the basis of misinformation by

local opposition parties which are afraid of losing the forthcoming general election.

The US last week extended its decades-long sanctions against Zimbabwe, imposed in protest over Harare's land reforms in which white-owned farms were taken over to resettle landless peasants. In extending the sanctions this time around, the US also included new demands around the holding of the elections set for the middle of this year.

Some of the demands include release of the voters roll without cost to all registered parties, establishment of an independent electoralmanagement body nominated by all political parties represented in parliament, allowing the diaspora vote, restricting the army fromcampaigning for any candidate or from intimidating voters, allowing international observers, and granting equal, free and full public media access to all registered political parties.

President Mnangagwa, in an interview on the sidelines of the Africa CEO Forum here, told Africa Report magazine that the US senators -- Jeff Flake (Republican-Ariz.) and Chris Coons (Democrat-Delaware), who proposed the amendments to the sanctions law -- would establish the truth on their proposed visit to Zimbabwe soon.

"When you look at what they are saying, you realise they are not informed, they are just reading the text of the opposition who are afraid of these elections and they are making those demands," President

Mnangagwa said.

Leaders of the opposition MDC Alliance in December travelled to theUnited States soon after the installation of President Mnangagwa as the new leader of Zimbabwe to press for the continued imposition of the sanctions, estimated to have cost the country more than 40 billion US dollars.

Mnangagwa said the US senators will have the opportunity to meet with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission as well as go round the country to establish if it was true that the army was being involved in election campaigns.

He said allegations that former military officials were part of ZEC were baseless as there was no law in Zimbabwe forbidding any citizen from working for any organization of their choice. "We have no law in our domestic jurisdiction which forbids a person from joining a parastatal. Are we saying anybody who has a military background must not be near democracy," he said.