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Last Updated: Friday, 11 February, 2005, 18:45 GMT
Mugabe launches election campaign
Zanu-PF supporter
Zanu-PF is expected to do well in the election
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has sharply criticised the US Secretary of State during a speech to launch his party's general election campaign.

Speaking at a rally, Mr Mugabe said Condoleezza Rice was a girl born out of slave ancestry who should know "that the white man is not a friend".

A banner said 31 March poll would be an "anti-Blair election", in reference to the UK prime minister.

Ms Rice has previously branded Zimbabwe an "outpost of tyranny".

It is the first time Mr Mugabe has responded to the comment, which also named Belarus, Burma, Cuba, Iran, and North Korea.

Thousands of supporters of Zimbabwe's ruling party gathered in Harare to launch the ruling Zanu-PF's election campaign.

The opposition has said it will take part in the elections "under protest".

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which is expected to launch its manifesto next week, says the parliamentary polls will not be free and fair.

More than 30 Zanu-PF supporters remain in custody after being arrested for attacking opposition supporters and the police in Norton, a town just outside Harare, reports the state-run Herald newspaper.


Speaking of Ms Rice, who is African-American, Mr Mugabe said: "The white man is the slave master to her."

It is... time to demonstrate to the world that it is we who established democracy in Zimbabwe
Robert Mugabe
Zimbabwean president

"She says Zimbabwe is one of the five or six outposts of tyranny. Ah well, she has got to echo her master's voice," he added.

The US and the European Union have imposed sanctions on the president and his close associates, accusing him of using violence and electoral fraud in the 2002 election.

He denies the accusations and says they want his removal because of his policy to seize white-owned land for redistribution to blacks.

Mr Mugabe has promised to abide by a set of regional democratic guidelines.

"It is now again the time to demonstrate to the world that it is we who established democracy in Zimbabwe," he told party delegates gathered at Harare's Sheraton Hotel.

Mr Mugabe accuses the MDC of being a front for white and western interests - which they deny.

'The sun rises in the east'

According to the BBC's Brian Hungwe in Harare, the president's two-and-half hour speech was punctuated by enthusiastic applause.

The president said his government would continue to co-operate and forge closer relations with Libya and China, saying: "The sun rises in the east".

Votes being counted
The MDC fears the outcome has already been decided

On the domestic front, the president said he would concentrate on land reform.

Instances where the "one man, one farm" allocation of land had been abused would be addressed, he said.

But first and foremost, people resettled on to farms would be helped to make the land more profitable.

His speech did not touch on the split within Zanu-PF ranks following the appointment of Vice-President Joyce Mujuru in December, which has seen the suspension of several provincial leaders.

But when their replacements were introduced at the event by Zanu-PF Secretary for Administration Didymus Mutasa, they received a lukewarm reception, our reporter says.

Correspondents say Zanu-PF is expected to do well in the poll, and if it gains a two-thirds majority in parliament, the party would be able to change the constitution.

Food aid

On Friday, the first edition of a new newspaper, The Zimbabwean, was published in the UK and South Africa, promising free and impartial coverage of Zimbabwe.

It was set up by Wilf Mbanga, who also launched the Daily News, which became Zimbabwe's best selling daily paper before being closed down.

Meanwhile, the government has released $1.9m in drought relief to feed those needing food aid this month, Zimbabwe's Herald newspaper reports.

International donors estimate that nearly half the population is in need of food aid but this is disputed by the Zimbabwe authorities.

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