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Peter Hain, Foreign Office Minister
"Racist attacks targetting whites"
 real 28k

Saturday, 1 April, 2000, 17:36 GMT 18:36 UK
UK anger over Zimbabwe violence
This man says he was injured by Mugabe supporters
The UK has delivered a strongly-worded attack on the authorities in Zimbabwe, after an anti-government protest ended in violence.

Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain said the violence appeared to be racist and organised.

Eyewitnesses, including a BBC correspondent, say white protesters were singled out for attack by people thought to be former fighters in the independence war.

Mr Hain said: "We strongly condemn all forms of violence, especially this sort of thuggery orchestrated from on high, which drags Zimbabwe's already tarnished image even lower."

Peter Hain
Peter Hain: "Clear evidence of racist attacks"
He added: "There is clear evidence of racist, anti-white attacks, which is especially disturbing coming from a party which came to power 20 years ago on a tide of anti-racist sentiment, committed to the end of white minority rule."

Mr Hain said he would raise the issue "as a matter of urgency" at a summit meeting between African and European Union leaders, which opens in Cairo on Sunday.

The Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, will also attend the summit.

Mr Hain has been a persistent critic of President Robert Mugabe and his administration, and relations between the two countries have become increasingly strained.

Violence at protest
Demonstrators fleeing from police
President Mugabe's government recently provoked furious British protests when it ordered the searching of a diplomatic bag consignment of materials destined for the British Embassy in Harare.

The Conservatives have accused the UK government of failing to match its words with actions.

Shadow Foreign Secretary Francis Maude said: "It's about time the British Government spoke out against Mugabe's corrupt regime, but as we've seen so often Labour prove to be all mouth and no delivery.

"We have called for Zimbabwe to be suspended from the Commonwealth until Mugabe's government is removed or until he completely changes his policies.

As we've seen so often Labour prove to be all mouth and no delivery

Shadow Foreign Secretary Francis Maude
"Unless the British Government actually takes firm action, the words of Mr Cook and Mr Hain will prove absolutely meaningless, and the catalogue of corruption in Zimbabwe will simply continue."

The Harare demonstration was called to protest against the takeover of more than 700 white-owned farms by black war veterans.

A British journalist was among those injured. Andrew Meldrum of the Guardian was struck on the head by a missile, which he described as a "very large rock".

Protester and policeman
A protester is arrested as the demonstration starts
He said: "I was just writing something in my notebook when I felt this massive thud.

"The original protest had been very joyful and peaceful but then the so-called bush war veterans came along.

"I saw people being beaten with steel bars, pickaxe handles and rocks. One man was on the floor unconscious and having convulsions."

Mr Meldrum said he believed that President Mugabe's men were behind the attack.

"They were targeting white people who weren't even involved in the protest, even people coming out of the bank," he said.

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See also:

01 Apr 00 | Africa
Zimbabwe protests turn violent
01 Apr 00 | Africa
March against land invasions
28 Mar 00 | Africa
Britain's troubles with Mugabe
10 Mar 00 | Africa
Why Zimbabwe distrusts the UK
09 Mar 00 | UK Politics
UK recalls Zimbabwe commissioner
16 Feb 00 | Africa
UK calls for Zimbabwe reforms
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