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Friday, August 20, 1999 Published at 13:53 GMT 14:53 UK

World: Africa

Telephone theft engages Malawi president

Bakili Muluzi: Frustrated at not being able to phone home

Malawi's President Bakili Muluzi has warned thieves who stole cables from a main telephone exchange that they are in big trouble if they are caught.

The presidential palace was among buildings affected, with the result that Mr Muluzi was unable to phone home while he was away at a regional summit in Mozambique.

Speaking on his return, the angry president warned the thieves that if they were caught, there would be no question of bail.

"We can't talk about human rights here," he said.

"Does human rights mean inconveniencing other people?"

The phone company has offered a reward for the arrest of the thieves.

Malawi, a nation of 11 million people, is one of the world's poorest countries with an average annual per capita income of about $200 a year.

Correspondents say telephone cables are frequently stolen in Malawi and then sold.

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