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The BBC's Colin Blane in Cairo:
"The UK insists it was never its aim to lecture Zimbabwe, only to offer assistance"
 real 28k

The BBC's Jane Standley
"Everyday in Zimbabwe things are getting worse"
 real 28k

UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook
"I want to convey that Britain is a friend of Zimbabwe"
 real 28k

Mark Chavunduka, The Harare Standard
"The land issue is being used as a political football"
 real 28k

Monday, 3 April, 2000, 19:53 GMT 20:53 UK
UK pressures Mugabe over land
President  Mugabe arrives in Cairo
President Mugabe wants to focus on the summit whilst in Cairo
The UK is increasing pressure on Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe over rising tensions and violence in his country.

Foreign Secretary Robin Cook held his first face-to-face meeting with the president in an effort to also end the government-backed occupation of white-owned farms.

No details have been given of the discussions, but Mr Cook said President Mugabe had given a pledge that Zimbabwe's general election would go ahead in May in accordance with the constitution.

Robin Cook
Robin Cook says Britain is ready to help Zimbabwe
The UK minister challenged the president to allow EU observers to monitor the polling.

Mr Mugabe's pledge comes after an anti-government demonstration in Harare on Saturday ended in violence.

Witnesses said the attackers - many of them veterans from the war of independence - singled out white people.

The clashes were the cumulation of months of tension in the country.

Elections support plan

President Mugabe's government is embroiled in its worst economic and political crisis since independence in 1980, and in February it lost a referendum on constitutional reform.

The move would have given Mr Mugabe the right to seize white farms for redistribution to blacks without the need for compensation.

More than 600 white-owned farms have been invaded in support of the plans.

Elections, originally set for April, have been postponed until May.

The government's farms plan appears to have been designed to win support for the president, who is facing a credible opposition from the MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) in the elections.

London delegation

President Mugabe and Mr Cook spoke during a goodwill summit between European and African leaders in Cairo.

Mr Mugabe had sharply rebuked Britain, angrily complaining that Britain was still treating his country like a colony.

The foreign secretary invited Mr Mugabe to send a delegation to London to explore all the issues.

President Mugabe has accepted the invitation but no date has been set.

Mr Cook said the meeting had been "open and honest".

He said the meeting was the beginning of a dialogue between the two countries, but not the end of Britain's concern.

Mr Cook said Britain was willing to finance a programme of land reform in Zimbabwe on condition that it improved rural farming for the poor and that it was conducted within the rule of law.

He said the current occupation of white-owned farms was not consistent with that and Britain expected the police to implement a court order to end it.

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See also:

28 Mar 00 | Africa
Britain's troubles with Mugabe
01 Apr 00 | Africa
Zimbabwe protests turn violent
02 Apr 00 | UK Politics
UK warns Zimbabwe visitors
02 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Cook talks tough on Zimbabwe
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