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Last Updated: Saturday, 26 February, 2005, 20:59 GMT
Zimbabwe shuts another newspaper
Robert Mugabe cuts his birthday cake
The celebrations follow Mugabe's actual birthday on Monday
Zimbabwe has shut down an independent newspaper launched last month in Bulawayo, the second city.

The ban on the Weekly Times is the fourth imposed on a paper by Robert Mugabe's government in two years and comes five weeks before an election.

Officials said the paper did not focus on development issues as promised but its owner said the ban was political.

Separately Mr Mugabe marked his 81st birthday with a fierce attack on the UK, the ex-colonial power in Zimbabwe.

Addressing a crowd of 30,000 in the town of Marondera, he accused Prime Minister Tony Blair of believing he had "the divine power to rule Zimbabwe and Britain".

The parliamentary election on 31 March has been dubbed the "anti-Blair election" by Mr Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party.

"On 31 March we must dig a grave not just six feet but 12 feet and bury Mr Blair and the Union Jack [UK flag] and write on top 'here lies the latter-day British imperialist and the Union Jack, never again to arise'," he told the rally.

Media squeeze

Zimbabwe's Media and Information Commission accused the Weekly Times of "misrepresentations" and withdrew its licence for a year.

Tafataona Mahoso, head of the commission, said the newspaper had turned to "partisan political advocacy".

Owner Godfrey Ncube said the decision was politically motivated and he planned to appeal against it in court.

"We feel it's a political move, it's got nothing to do with the law," he said.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has accused the Zimbabwean government of carrying out a campaign of intimidation against journalists in the run-up to the election.

The best-selling Daily News and Daily News on Sunday were shut down in 2003 and The Tribune was closed last year.

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