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The BBC's Barney Mason
"The Commonwealth minister said problems had continued in Zimbabwe since last years controversial elections"
 real 28k

Stan Mudenge, Zimbabwean foreign minister
"If Robin Cook wants to come.... I would welcome him"
 real 28k

Donald Anderson, foreign affairs select committee
"The evidence is so clear"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 21 March, 2001, 10:39 GMT
Zimbabwe faces Commonwealth 'isolation'
President Robert Mugabe
Mr Mugabe is accused of intimidating the judiciary
United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Robin Cook has warned that Zimbabwe is risking isolation from the Commonwealth by refusing to co-operate over a proposed ministerial visit.

But in common with Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon they are refusing to go as far as talking of possible suspension from the 54-nation body.

"If Zimbabwe now refuses the offer of dialogue ... then it is putting itself into a very serious position in the Commonwealth," British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said.

"They will find themselves totally isolated within the Commonwealth. That is not a situation that any member of the Commonwealth would wish to be in."

Zimbabwe said on Tuesday that a Commonwealth plan to send an urgent mission to Harare to look into alleged government abuses had no mandate and was unprocedural.


They have no mandate for the mission they want to send

Zimbabwe's Foreign Minister
Zimbabwe's Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge said that: "This is an unprocedural request.

"They have no mandate for the mission they want to send. We will not participate in illegality and unprocedural methods of operating."

The Commonwealth's decision followed a meeting of the organisation's Ministerial Action Group, which was established to promote democratic principles among the members of the organisation of mainly former British colonies.

Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, has been under attack since last year for his campaign to seize white-owned farms and more recently for what critics say are his efforts to intimidate the country's media and judiciary.

Criticism

The United Kingdom has led international criticism of President Robert Mugabe's government since February 2000 when the occupation of white-owned farms began.

A bill passed in April legalised the seizure of land.

President Mugabe said that the UK should compensate the farmers for the loss of their land, in accordance with an agreement made at the time of independence.

Hundreds of farms were occupied and in the violence that followed many people were killed and injured.

In December of last year Zimbabwe's high court declared the land seizures as unconstitutional.

Journalists

More recently the free press has come under pressure.

In January of this year the printing presses of the independent and critical Daily News were blown up in a bomb attack.

In February two foreign journalists were ordered out of the country.

Pressure on the judiciary followed a series of decisions that went against the government.

Two weeks ago the Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay succumbed to months of government pressure and intimidation by agreeing to go on immediate leave before taking early retirement in late June.

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See also:

20 Mar 01 | Africa
Commonwealth presses Mugabe
09 Mar 01 | Africa
Mugabe man named top judge
26 Apr 00 | Africa
Who owns the land?
21 Dec 00 | Africa
Zimbabwe land seizures 'illegal'
28 Jan 01 | Africa
Zimbabwe newspaper bombed
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