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Last Updated: Friday, 17 February 2006, 14:29 GMT
Mugabe seeking 'bridges' with UK
By Peter Biles
BBC Southern Africa Correspondent

President Robert Mugabe walks among supporters at his party conference
Mugabe has frequently criticised the UK in recent years
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has urged the new UK ambassador to help repair relations between the countries. The state-owned Herald newspaper quotes President Mugabe as calling on the ambassador to report what he called the "true facts" about his country.

The relationshiphas been frosty since 2000, when London criticised poll fraud and human rights violations.

Since then, Mr Mugabe has never missed an opportunity to criticise Prime Minister Tony Blair and his government.

But now, Mr Mugabe has reportedly told the new ambassador that he wants help in building what he called "formidable bridges".

The Herald quoted President Mugabe as saying: "We need a bridge with the British. We politicians come and go, but the people are there at all times".

According to the paper, Mr Mugabe told the ambassador that the European Union sanctions on Zimbabwe were also hurting Britain, because most foreign firms in Zimbabwe were British-owned.

Robert Mugabe turns 82 next week, and has been in power since independence in 1980.

His critics blame him for ruining Zimbabwe's economy with his controversial land reform programme.

Food, fuel and foreign currency are all in desperately short supply, and last month inflation topped 600%.

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