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Sunday, 26 March, 2000, 12:40 GMT
Mugabe warns of 'chaos'
Zimbabwe squatters
The squatters show no signs of moving
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has warned of "chaos" if black squatters are evicted from hundreds of white-owned farms which they have occupied.

In his first public comments since a court order to forcibly evict the veterans, President Mugabe said he would do nothing against the squatters as long as the demonstrations remained peaceful.

He said an attempt to enforce the court order without the help of the government would be chaotic.


Robert Mugabe
President Mugabe says he will not "allow chaos"
Police have done nothing to enforce a court order made after an appeal by the mostly white Commercial Farmers Union that the squatters, veterans of Zimbabwe's independence war, should leave the farms by last Monday.

"What will bring chaos is an attempt to implement the decision of the court without the executive, without us, ordering the forces," President Mugabe said.

President Mugabe, who supports the squatters' actions, added that he "would not stand by and allow chaos".

'Nonsense'

Zimbabwe police applied to the High Court on Friday to be allowed to leave the squatters alone as long as their protest remained non-violent.

Police have warned that the lives of white farmers could be put at risk if court-ordered evictions were carried out.

Speaking in a CNN interview, President Mugabe rejected accusations that he was exacerbating tensions for political ends ahead of parliamentary elections.

"It's absolute nonsense. It's the usual opposition nonsense," he said.

After losing February's referendum on a draft constitution, President Mugabe's 20-year-old government faces an unprecedented challenge in a vote that was set for April but may be put off until June.

'Disturbing'

British Foreign Office minister Peter Hain said Mr Mugabe's comments were "very worrying".


Zimbabwe squatters
The squatters were ordered to leave by last Monday
"This is very disturbing news. To have the president defying his independent courts sends a very worrying message to the international community, potential investors and the Zimbabwean people," Mr Hain said.

Britain has accused its former colony of inciting lawlessness by failing to evict the squatters.

Britain earlier announced contingency plans to take in 20,000 white Zimbabweans who hold British passports if violence against them increases.

But Mr Hain said he hoped it would not get to the stage where white farmers felt their future was no longer in Zimbabwe.

Britain has sent an extra consular official to Harare to process an increasing number of applications for entry to the UK.

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25 Mar 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Threat of anarchy in Zimbabwe
10 Mar 00 | Africa
Why Zimbabwe distrusts the UK
09 Mar 00 | UK Politics
UK recalls Zimbabwe commissioner
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