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Saturday, 12 January, 2002, 20:18 GMT
Mugabe renews attack on Britain
Robert Mugabe poster at a Harare church
Mugabe hopes to find regional backing in Malawi
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has renewed his attack on Britain, saying that the UK was at war with his country.

He was speaking in Malawi, where he has arrived for a regional conference at which he hopes to rally support in the run-up to elections in March.

The Commercial Farmers' Union (CFU) says that another 23 landowners have been forced from their homes in the past week, as a new campaign against white-owned farms begins.

Sanctions or no sanctions, Zimbabwe will survive

Robert Mugabe
Zimbabwe is under pressure from the European Union and the Commonwealth, as well as the United States, to reverse draconic media and security laws and ensure free and fair elections.

Mr Mugabe will attend a summit meeting of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in the Malawian commercial capital, Blantyre, on Monday.

On his arrival, he said: "Britain has a war with us, [Prime Minister Tony] Blair wants his own version of colonialism in Zimbabwe and we will resist that."

On Friday the European Union gave Harare a week to accept foreign media and international monitors.

Morgan Tsvangirai
Opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai welcomed EU pressure
But the government said it would allow international observers to witness the elections but not to monitor them.

Speaking after a day of intense talks with representatives of the European Union, Zimbabwean Foreign Minister Stanislav Mudenge said he would issue invitations to observers shortly.

But opposition candidate for president, Morgan Tsvangirai, said President Mugabe could not afford to reject the monitors.

"He has no option but to allow an international assessment of the election to give it legitimacy. He needs that legitimacy."

Farm attacks reported

The looting of white-owned farms reported by the CFU took place mainly around Raffingora, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) north-east of Harare.

One farmer was given five minutes to leave his property, said Jenni Williams, a CFU spokesperson.

She said that militants had told farmers that they were responsible for sanctions imposed by the United States and threatened by the EU.

Opposition politicians say that the ruling Zanu-PF party has a training camp in the Raffingora area, where it drills unemployed youths into a militia force.

International criticism

EU foreign ministers are due to review progress in Zimbabwe at their next meeting in Brussels in late January, but there has been no mention of the action that might be taken if Harare fails to provide a satisfactory response to concerns about the elections.

Further criticism of Zimbabwe has come from the United States, which said the authorities were trying to intimidate opposition supporters.

President Robert Mugabe
Mr Mugabe has weathered criticism before
US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said five opposition supporters had been killed in the past two weeks, and there was little prospect of the murders being investigated.

And South Africa described as unacceptable an army statement indicating it would not accept an election victory by the opposition.

The Zimbabwean parliament has just approved new legislation banning independent monitors, and is expected next week to push through a bill on control of the media.

The BBC's Hilary Andersson
"Zimbabwe's elections could topple the country's stability"
MDC President, Morgan Tsvangirai
"We would love a situation where the environment is totally free and fair"
See also:

12 Jan 02 | Africa
Zimbabwe looms over SADC meeting
11 Jan 02 | Media reports
Zimbabwe press debates new bills
12 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Zimbabwe asylum talks urged by Tories
11 Jan 02 | Africa
SA condemns Zimbabwe military
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