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Monday, 2 September, 2002, 17:15 GMT 18:15 UK
Mugabe attack branded 'disgraceful'
Tony Blair and Robert Mugabe in 1997
Tony Blair is no longer smiling with Robert Mugabe
A leading MP has accused Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe of being "childish and delusional" in his attack on Tony Blair.

President Mugabe used his speech at the World Summit on Sustainable Development to launch a stinging attack on the UK government.


None of us should be distracted by the delusions of demagogues like Mugabe

Tony Baldry
Conservative MP
That broadside was branded a "disgrace" by Tony Baldry, Conservative chairman of the Commons international development select committee.

The summit feud comes against the background of British criticism of the land reform programme in Zimbabwe, which has seen many white farmers lose their land.

'No distractions'

President Mugabe defended that policy, insisting farmers were only being prevented from owning more than one farm.

In a stark message to Mr Blair, he said: "Keep your England and let me keep my Zimbabwe."

The UK prime minister has been criticised by Conservatives for not denouncing President Mugabe in his own speech.

Jack Straw, UK Foreign Secretary
Straw has called Zimbabwe a "pariah" state
UK ministers have warned that concern about Zimbabwe must not be allowed to "hijack" a summit aimed at tackling poverty and protecting the environment.

But responding to criticism from the Namibian president Sam Nujoma, of UK policy towards Zimbabwe, the prime minister said President Nujoma was "defending the utterly indefensible".

Mr Baldry, who is in Johannesburg for the summit himself, was quick to hit back at Mr Mugabe's remarks.

'Ungrateful'

"President Mugabe had not a single word to say about the six million people in Zimbabwe threatened at the moment by famine," said the MP.

"He had a not a single word of thanks to the international community who notwithstanding their concern about Mugabe's policies, are rushing to send millions of tonnes of humanitarian food aid to help feed those in Zimbabwe threatened by starvation."

Mr Baldry labelled the taunts against Tony Blair as "childish" but said other African leaders were taking a different line.

"None of us should be distracted by the delusions of demagogues like Mugabe," said Mr Baldry.

"The vast majority of African leaders want to work in sensible partnership with the rest of the world to lift Africa out of poverty."

Tory criticism

Mr Blair was not in the conference hall for President Mugabe's attack.

Shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram said: "The nearest the prime minister came to addressing the horrors of Zimbabwe was to refer, in Mozambique, to Mugabe's 'incompetence, mismanagement and corruption'.

"Those who are being persecuted, tortured, raped, murdered and deliberately starved will find little recognition in these mealy mouthed words," he said.

Downing Street has stressed the need to keep the summit focus on Zimbabwe.

However, before the conference, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said that Zimbabwe was a "self-made pariah, not a colonial victim".


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See also:

02 Sep 02 | Africa
02 Sep 02 | Politics
28 Aug 02 | Africa
27 Aug 02 | Africa
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