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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 June, 2005, 18:17 GMT 19:17 UK
UN envoy upbeat on Mugabe talks
Robert Mugabe
Mr Mugabe says the slums were cleared to root out crime
A UN envoy has spoken warmly of her discussions with Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe over his controversial urban slum demolition scheme.

Anna Tibaijuka, in Zimbabwe to assess the impact of the programme, said the talks had been "very good" and "constructive", without elaborating.

UN chief Kofi Annan sent an envoy to Zimbabwe after strong criticism of the clearances from the US and Britain.

The demolition scheme is so far thought to have left 275,000 people homeless.

Thousands of Zimbabweans are living on the streets, others have gone back to their rural homes, while others still have moved into parts of the city as yet untouched.

Mr Mugabe has defended the demolitions, arguing that they are rooting out criminals involved in black market trading and regenerating cities.

Election fears

Ms Tibaijuka, the Tanzanian head of the UN-Habitat agency, is visiting Zimbabwe with an eight-member team.

Following her talks with Mr Mugabe, she went on a visit to the Harare township of Mbare, where many shacks and illegal homes are believed to have been razed.

He said on Wednesday that Ms Tibaijuka had expressed her concern for the people whose homes and businesses were forcibly demolished.

See before and after images of township clearance in Harare.

"Obviously there is some degree of suffering when you break down a slum," he said.

But, Mr Mugabe said, Ms Tibaijuka was "happy" with a programme to house the homeless, although she had questioned how it would be financed.

Zimbabwe's main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, has said the demolitions targeted the urban slums that are its electoral stronghold.

Mr Mugabe said he told Ms Tibaijuka the plan to clear the slums was meant to have been put in motion before the elections.

However, Mr Mugabe added, it was delayed for fear "it would be said that we were preparing the way for our own victory and affecting the position of the MDC adversely".

"But now after elections when the MDC has won [in urban areas] we decided to undertake the operation."


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