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Tuesday, 11 April, 2000, 16:09 GMT 17:09 UK
Mugabe is 'ethnic cleansing'

The Tories want tougher action against Mugabe
The Conservatives have accused Robert Mugabe's government in Zimbabwe of practising "ethnic cleansing" on the country's white farmers.

Calling for tougher action from the UK government over the current crisis in the southern African state, the shadow foreign secretary Francis Maude also demanded a halt to aid.

He also called for the Commonwealth to help negotiate an end to the crisis, with a threat of suspension should promised elections not take place.

The country has been plunged into turmoil as President Mugabe has encouraged squatters to occupy white owned farms. Police have been accused of turning a blind eye while critics say Mr Mugabe is polarising the nation to preserve his own fragile postion.

Assets freeze

Speaking in the Commons on Tuesday, Mr Maude pointed out that government-to-government aid was increasing, that the UK was still supplying military aid to Zimbabwe and that Britain should look into freezing the country's overseas assets.

Turning to the issue of the squatters he told MPs: "Thugs are being cynically encouraged by the government to invade property, despite the government's failure to win the recent the referendum.

"This continued prosecution of a pointless and costly war in the Congo, the postponement of elections, all of this is condemning Zimbabwe to penury and repression.

"It is a process that now has all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing."

Robin Cook: "Rule of law must be observed"
But Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said that military training supplied by the UK was not for Zimbabwe alone, but was for training the whole southern African region in peace keeping missions.

He then asked Mr Maude which aid the UK should suspend - the aid used for treating victims of HIV, that used for sanitation projects or for irrigation.

Mr Cook said the actions proposed by Mr Maude conflicted with those of Tory leader William Hague who has called for better relations between the two countries.

'Gesture politics'

He said Mr Maude was guilty of the "most empty gesture politics that will not help the people of Zimbabwe".

Responding to Liberal Democrat spokesman Menzies Campbell, Mr Cook said no new licences for military equipment were being granted.

"We will continue to make sure that these are kept under review.

"But at the present time there will be no new equipment for Zimbabwe which can either be used in the Congo or for internal repression."

A friend of Zimbabwe

Mr Cook also repeated his earlier calls for the rule of law to be respected.

He said:"I have sought in all my statements to demonstrate that Britain is not an enemy, but a friend, of the people of Zimbabwe.

"It is because of that friendship that Britain is leading the international demand that the Government of Zimbabwe respect the rule of law and that the people of Zimbabwe must have the right, through free and fair elections, to decide for themselves who will govern the country."

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See also:

11 Apr 00 | Africa
Zimbabwe parliament dissolves
10 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Cook demands 'rule of law' in Zimbabwe
11 Apr 00 | Africa
Zimbabwe edges towards election
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