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Monday, 2 September, 2002, 23:13 GMT 00:13 UK
Defiant Mugabe attacks Blair
Robert Mugabe
Robert Mugabe used his speech to attack Britain
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has launched a scathing attack on Tony Blair and Britain's colonial past at the world summit in Johannesburg.

Defending his controversial land reform policies, Mr Mugabe told the British leader: "Keep your England and let me keep my Zimbabwe."

Mr Blair avoided the issue in his own speech, instead urging fellow world leaders to address the problems of poverty and the environment.

But he was criticised by Tories for failing to deal with Mr Mugabe's attack, and by environmental groups for not setting out firm "targets, timetables and cash" to tackle the problems being discussed.

Despite this, Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett hailed the summit's achievements as "truly remarkable" after a compromise was reached on the issue of renewable energy.

'Shed our blood'

Speaking as the summit entered its last three days, Mr Mugabe rounded on the European Union and Britain.

Tony Blair chats with police
Tony Blair met police in the Alexandra township
He said: "We are African we are not British or European. We are doing our best to sustain our environment in every way possible.

"We have fought for our land, we have fought for our sovereignty, small as we are, we have won our independence and we are prepared to shed our blood."

Mr Mugabe said white farmers often owned several farms and would be allowed to keep at least one.

Mr Mugabe regularly criticises Britain, but seldom in front of so many other high-profile figures.

Mr Blair was not present for the Zimbabwe leader's speech, but was when Namibia's President Sam Nujoma continued the attack.

Mr Nujoma said: "We here in southern Africa have one big problem, created by the British.

"The honourable Tony Blair is here, and he created the situation in Zimbabwe."

'Political will'

Speaking on a visit to the nearby deprived township of Alexandra, Mr Blair said the Namibian leader held a "minority view".

"The vast majority of African leaders fully support the principles of good governance we stand for," Mr Blair said.

Mr Blair's own speech focused on the summit's agenda, saying: "We know the problems - a child in Africa dies every three seconds from famine, disease or conflict.


We needed to hear about targets, timetables and cash - instead we got the usual hand-wringing

Greenpeace
"We know that if climate change is not stopped all parts of the world will suffer and some will even be destroyed.

"And we know the solution - sustainable development. So the issue for this summit is the political will."

The last Earth Summit in Rio, he said, "did not deliver everything, neither will Johannesburg, no summit can".

But he said the Johannesburg meeting would help change the world for the better.

Underlining the government's commitment to raise aid levels to 1bn a year, he said: "Africa for me is a passion."

'Hand-wringing'

But shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram said Mr Blair should have responded to Mr Mugabe's comments.

He said: "The nearest the prime minister came to addressing the horrors of Zimbabwe was to refer, in Mozambique, to Mugabe's 'incompetence, mismanagement and corruption'.

"Those who are being persecuted, tortured, raped, murdered and deliberately starved will find little recognition in these mealy mouthed words."

Shadow international development secretary Caroline Spelman also attacked Mr Blair's contribution to the summit.

She said: "Tony Blair's pledge to heal the scars of Africa may have been applauded at the Labour Party conference, but in a region gripped by famine the words ring hollow unless they are followed through with deeds."

Environmental group Greenpeace said: "We needed to hear about targets, timetables and cash - instead we got the usual hand-wringing."

International Development Secretary Clare Short, hit back at claims of government inaction.

She said: "The UK is seen in the world as a leading player in its commitment to reduce poverty and give sustainability."

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The BBC's John Simpson
"Mugabe completely stole the show"

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02 Sep 02 | Africa
23 Aug 02 | Politics
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02 Sep 02 | Politics
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