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Tuesday, 8 August, 2000, 01:02 GMT 02:02 UK
Summit backs Zimbabwe over land
War veterans, Zimbabwe
The farm invasions continue in Zimbabwe
A summit of southern African leaders has given its unqualified support to Zimbabwe's President Mugabe and his controversial policy of redistributing land owned by white commercial farmers.

A summit communique criticised Britain and the US for their stance on the land issue and condemned "biased reporting" of events in Zimbabwe in parts of the international media.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders have also nominated the presidents of South Africa and Malawi to make representations to London to secure financial support for Zimbabwe's land reform policy.

The SADC leaders, meeting in the Namibian capital, Windhoek, said Zimbabwe was seeking to effect a just redistribution of land, which was needed to address poverty affecting millions of black Zimbabweans.

Zimbabwe's Foreign Affairs minister Stan Mudenge
Stan Mudenge: Summit has backed land reforms
The heads of state also praised Zimbabwe's general election in June as free and fair, and there was no public criticism of the violence that led up to the poll.

Outgoing SADC chairman President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique said it was wrong to characterise those who fought the racist regime of Ian Smith as anti-democratic and dictatorial.

Debilitating debt

The heads of state also discussed regional conflicts and finalising plans on a free-trade zone due to come into effect on 1 September.

In just over a decade, the SADC hopes to create about $7bn worth of commerce between 11 of the 14 member countries.

The leaders hope the new zone will help bring their people greater prosperity.

President Chissano said improvements could come only if creditor nations wrote off what he described as the region's economically debilitating debt.

Laurent Kabila
President Kabila: Staying at home
President Laurent Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo did not attend the summit, in a blatant snub to the assembled heads of state who had made the conflict in the republic one of the major items on the agenda.

His absence toned down expectations of progress towards a resolution of the civil war.

But President Chissano said that the wars there and in Angola were of grave concern.

He did not condemn the warring parties - even though some of their representatives were sitting only a few metres away.

Instead he called on the international community to help alleviate the humanitarian suffering of the Angolan and Congolese people.

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 ON THIS STORY
Ishbel Matheson in Windhoek
"No criticism of the grave situation in Zimbabwe"
See also:

30 Jun 00 | Africa
Timeline: DR Congo conflict
02 Jul 00 | Africa
Leaders reaffirm Kisangani pact
04 Aug 00 | Africa
Namibia's burning land issue
03 Aug 00 | Africa
Mugabe denies farm truce
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