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Last Updated: Saturday, 25 June, 2005, 18:38 GMT 19:38 UK
AU stand on Zimbabwe criticised
Girl site in destroyed house
The opposition says its supporters are being punished
European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso has said he is "disappointed" by the African Union's response to Zimbabwe's demolitions campaign.

Speaking in South Africa, Mr Barroso said he was "gravely concerned" about events in Zimbabwe.

The AU said on Friday that it had many more serious problems to consider.

The UN says 275,000 people have been made homeless as a result of an operation which Zimbabwe says is aimed at removing illegal structures.

'Freedom'

"I am disappointed with the reaction of the African Union to the latest crisis," Mr Barroso said after a two-hour meeting with South African President Thabo Mbeki, who has also refused to condemn the evictions.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso (left) and South African President Thabo Mbeki
Jose Manuel Barroso said the evictions were a 'human rights crisis'
"This is a human rights crisis and human rights are not an internal matter. They should be the concern of all people, African, Asian and European.

"I hope that Africans themselves can decide the way to go in terms of freedom and can see that freedom is not a foreign value," he added.

Mr Barroso is in South Africa at the start of a three nation tour ahead of next month's G8 meeting of leading industrial nations, where increasing aid for Africa will figure prominently.

Children killed

The US and the UK have urged African leaders to speak out against what she described as "tragic" events.

But AU spokesman Desmond Orjiako told the BBC that if the Zimbabwe government said it was restoring order, then it would not be "proper for us to go interfering in their internal legislation".

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe said on Friday that the removal of illegal homes and market stalls was part of a bid to fight crime and clean up cities.

But the opposition says the demolitions - codenamed Operation Restore Order - are meant to punish urban residents, who rejected him in recent elections.

At least three children have been crushed to death during the operation.


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