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Sunday, April 18, 1999 Published at 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK

World: Africa

Zimbabwe: Twelve-hundred AIDS deaths a week

The president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, has for the first time publicly acknowledged the scale of AIDS and HIV infection in his country.

In an address to the nation marking nineteen years of independence, Mr Mugabe said twelve-hundred Zimbabweans were dying of AIDS-related illnesses every week.

About one-in-four of the population is thought to be infected, but the BBC correspdonent in Harare says public debate has been stifled by the country's highly conservative leadership.

Mr Mugabe also used his speech to renew his criticism of the International Monetary Fund, calling it a monstous creature and saying there was no reason why he shouldn't turn his back on it. Our correspondent says the IMF has repeatedly delayed releasing much-needed funds because of concerns about Zimbabwe's contentious land re-distribution programme.

From the newsroom of the BBC World Service

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