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Tuesday, December 1, 1998 Published at 12:04 GMT


UK Politics

Minister to meet Mugabe

The president is accused of human rights violations

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has been offered the chance to meet a Foreign Office minister during a pre-Christmas shopping trip to London.

After the Zimbabweans requested a meeting, Foreign Office minister Tony Lloyd offered to see the president later this week.

No further details were given, and it is not yet known if the Zimbabweans will take up the offer, the Foreign Office said.

Human rights campaigners have drawn parallels between President Mugabe's visit and that of former Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet, who was recently arrested in London at Spain's request.

The campaigners say President Mugabe, who has ruled the former British colony for the past 18 years, should be challenged on alleged human rights violations.

If the meeting with Mr Lloyd takes place, Zimbabwe's recent move to confiscate 841 farms owned by white people will be high on the agenda, said the Foreign Office.

A spokesman said the Zimbabwean Government had assured aid donors, including the UK, that it had no intention of departing from due process of law in the land issue.

This provides for an administrative court to consider all the acquisition orders, for evaluation of properties and for the offer of full compensation.

"That was the response we received when we expressed concern. We will look very carefully now to see what happens.

"Our High Commission is in touch with the authorities in Harare and will seek whatever further clarification is necessary as and when. At the moment, we have been given that firm assurance. We wait and see," the spokesman said.

The Zimbabwean Government promised last September that its land action would not disrupt food production or increase Zimbabwe's already crushing budget deficit.

It also said it would be done only in consultation with all stakeholders, and in accordance with the constitution, which protects private property.

Mr Mugabe will arrive in London on Tuesday after visits to Libya, Egypt, Italy and France, where he attended a Franco-African summit in Paris.



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