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Sunday, 3 March, 2002, 12:51 GMT
Zimbabwe attacks UK 'colonialism'
Tony Blair with Foreign Office Minister Baroness Amos
Blair wants Commonwealth action against Mugabe
Zimbabwe has accused Prime Minister Tony Blair of disgraceful colonialism for trying to have the country suspended from the Commonwealth.

The attack from Zimbabwean Information Minister Jonathan Moyo came after Mr Blair warned the Commonwealth's reputation could be damaged if it did not take tough action against President Robert Mugabe.

Mr Blair needs to be told that Zimbabwe will never be a colony again, never

Jonathan Moyo
Zimbabwean minister
Meanwhile, Conservative shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram is pressing for the international community, and not just the Commonwealth, to send a clear message to Zimbabwe.

Commonwealth leaders are in private talks in Australia over their policy towards Zimbabwe ahead of the next weekend's presidential elections.

But they are not expected to decide on immediate action.

'Colonial hangover'

Mr Moyo told BBC News it would be voters and not international observers who would decide the polls.

Mr Moyo was fiercely critical of Mr Blair, who he said was "suffering from a colonial hangover" and making arrogant statements.

Jonathan Moyo
Moyo says observers will not decide the elections
"He needs to be told that Zimbabwe will never be a colony again, never," said the minister.

"He can make as much noise as he wants and the more noise he makes, the more he exposes himself to the international community.

"Some of the statements that have been attributed to him yesterday and today are disgraceful and shameful."

The European Union has now imposed targeted sanctions against Mr Mugabe and his allies but Mr Ancram said those should have been enforced much earlier.

'Clear message'

Speaking on BBC One's Breakfast With Frost programme, Mr Ancram said the failure to take firm action last year had given a "green light" to Mr Mugabe.

"I would like to hear a very clear message that if this election is not free and fair and democratic then the international community, not just us unilaterally or the Commonwealth, will take action to make sure the situation is rectified," he continued.

Mr Ancram accused Mr Mugabe of heading a "fascist" regime that had sponsored "political murders".

Foreign Office Minister Baroness Amos said the UK could take action on its own against Zimbabwe.

But she said there needed to be "some kind of mechanism that the Commonwealth would immediately put into action if the Commonwealth observers judge the election not to be free and fair".

Blair's plea

On Saturday, Mr Blair warned that if observers concluded the election, which has been tainted by reports of violence and intimidation, was unfair then it would be "essential" for the Commonwealth to act.

Mr Blair said the opposition Movement for Democratic Change could still win the poll on 9 and 10 March.

He added that if Mr Mugabe refused to accept a victory by his rival Morgan Tsvangirai, the Commonwealth had to act.

The prime minister said: "There is a disagreement here about tactics, because some of the African countries feel it is wrong to suspend Zimbabwe at this moment.

"But I do think it's essential for the credibility of the Commonwealth that if after the election in Zimbabwe the Commonwealth observers report there was malpractice and intimidation during the election, we take action if Mr Mugabe is still in power."

The BBC's James Robbins
"Desperate efforts are being made to heal a deep divide over Zimbabwe"

Key stories

The vote



See also:

03 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
Commonwealth rift over Zimbabwe
02 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Blair's warning over Zimbabwe
02 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
Zimbabwe crisis talks delayed
01 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Blair urges action on Zimbabwe
28 Feb 02 | Africa
Mugabe rival sues over video
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