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Friday, December 4, 1998 Published at 16:24 GMT

World: Africa

Mugabe defends fighting for Congo

Both the government and rebels in Congo are backed by neighbouring countries

Watch the BBC interview of President Mugabe
The Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe, has defended his country's involvement in the conflict in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mr Mugabe, speaking in a BBC interview, said Zimbabwe and other countries in southern Africa had to get involved on the side of the government of President Laurent Kabila when it faced "aggression from its neighbours".

"If it was right for European countries to get involved in Bosnia, and to think of getting involved in Kosovo, why should it not be right for us?" Mr Mugabe asked.

The Zimbabwean president denied that the war in Congo was becoming increasingly unpopular among Zimbabweans.

[ image: Robert Mugabe:
Robert Mugabe: "Our people in general support the government"
"I don't know to whom it is unpopular ... Our people in general support the government," Mr Mugabe said.

"There may be one or two loud voices, of people who have always been our opponents, who may be talking against our involvement in Congo," he said.

Mr Mugabe denied reports that Zimbabwe's involvement in Congo is costing $1m a day and resulting in the deaths of hundreds of Zimbabwean soldiers.

The conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo is threatening the stability of the whole region, as several countries have become involved in the fighting.

President Kabila's government has accused Rwanda and Uganda of invading his country and Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia have admitted sending their troops to Congo to help fight the rebels.

'Not responsible' for economic crisis

Zimbabwe itself is facing severe economic difficulties. But President Mugabe sees the problems as part of the global economic slide that the government is unable to control.

"True, we have a difficult economic situation which results from the fact that our exports have not been performing well.

" We are not responsible for the depressed markets and the low prices. It's a situation that affects not just Zimbabwe but also other countries throughout the world," Mr Mugabe said.

"The people are getting poorer because when the economy is not doing well you have companies and employers ... discharging workers and adding to unemployment," he said.

There have been calls for Mr Mugabe's resignation, but the president dismisses them as part of the opposition campaign.

"They have been talking about that for a long, long time," Mr Mugabe said.

"I hear the calls from the same people ... those who fought us in the elections of 1980, 1985, 1990 and 1995. They might fight us again and lose. They will lose all the time."

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