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The BBC's Colin Blane
"An attempt to change a pattern of decline"
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The BBC's Frank Gardner
"We are going to see an exchange of words"
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UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook
"I want to convey that Britain is a friend of Zimbabwe"
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Monday, 3 April, 2000, 08:55 GMT 09:55 UK
Mugabe faces rough ride
The opposition says more protests are planned
President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe is expected to come under renewed diplomatic pressure as a summit meeting of European and African leaders opens in Cairo.

The 67-nation summit comes two days after running battles broke out in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, when government supporters attacked an opposition demonstration.

The protest followed government-backed occupation of white-owned farms.

UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said in Cairo that the European Union would insist on the right to peaceful protest in Zimbabwe, and on forthcoming elections being free and fair.

There should be free and fair elections and they should be properly monitored and observed

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook
He accused the Zimbabwean police of having been too slow to react to the violence.

After arriving in Egypt Mr Mugabe said he had come for the conference alone.

"That is what my mind is set on, and nothing else," he said.

The summit is intended to discuss future political and economic cooperation, but faces being overshadowed by events in Zimbabwe.

Correspondents say that while the EU wants the summit to focus on good governance, African leaders are more interested in ways to write off foreign debt and guarantee better access to European markets.

UK alert

Mr Cook will be sitting only a few seats away from Mr Mugabe in the conference hall.

"Britain is a friend of Zimbabwe - we want to help the people of Zimbabwe," Mr Cook told the BBC's Today programme.

"But it is very difficult to help when President Mugabe treats Britain as an opponent, and not as a partner."

Britain has now warned visitors to Zimbabwe to be alert for signs of violence and to avoid troubled areas.

The new Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Don McKinnon, said he was "not at all happy" at the current tension but that it was too early to talk of suspending Zimbabwe.

He said it could be counter-productive to confront President Robert Mugabe directly over the election issue.

Whites 'singled out'

Saturday's march was called by the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) in support of the rule of law, and in opposition to a recent wave of government-backed invasions of white-owned farms.
Police are accused of being slow to break up the violence
The demonstrators included elderly couples and families who walked peacefully through the capital until they were set upon.

For the next 30 minutes, government supporters swaggered through the streets beating people, apparently at random.

Correspondents say the attackers - many of them veterans from the war of independence - singled out white people.

Church services were held on Sunday for the victims - several of whom are in hospital in a serious condition.

I stood with a poster which said 'no violence', and they beat me

Jenny Yon, protestor
Mr Mugabe's government is embroiled in its worst economic and political crisis since independence in 1980, after losing a referendum on constitutional reform in February.

The constitution that was rejected would have given Mr Mugabe the right to seize white farms for redistribution to blacks without the need for compensation.

Elections, originally set for April, have been postponed until May at the earliest.

Britain has said it will take in 20,000 white Zimbabweans if they are subjected to further violence.

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See also:

02 Apr 00 | UK Politics
UK warns Zimbabwe visitors
28 Mar 00 | Africa
Britain's troubles with Mugabe
01 Apr 00 | Africa
Zimbabwe protests turn violent
02 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Cook talks tough on Zimbabwe
25 Mar 00 | Africa
Mugabe warns of 'chaos'
26 Mar 00 | Africa
Zimbabwe elections put back
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