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Thursday, 20 April, 2000, 07:08 GMT 08:08 UK
Queen's note upsets Zimbabwe whites
burned car
White farmers say the Queen was totally insensitive on the day a farmer died
White families in Zimbabwe are furious over a goodwill message sent by the Queen to President Robert Mugabe on the day a farmer was murdered by an armed mob of his supporters.

The "congratulations" message, signed by the Queen, was sent by the UK Government on Tuesday, the 20th anniversary of Zimbabwe's independence.

It was drafted by the Foreign Office and passed to the Queen for approval before being delivered by the British High Commission in the capital Harare.

It is routine for the Queen to send a message on national days to all countries which have diplomatic relations with Britain.

Green light

However the message was picked up on by the Zimbabwean media, sparking fury among white communities angry that Buckingham Palace had sent words of encouragement to Mr Mugabe on the day he branded white farmers "enemies of the state".

The foreign office says the message to President Mugabe was routine
Tim Savory, a white farmer, told The Times newspaper: "The regime here will interpret this as a green light to do as it pleases.

"Her Majesty should know she has let us down badly."

Another, Charme Kennedy, 66, who owns a farm outside Kwekwe in the Midlands province, was less diplomatic.

"Has the Queen gone senile or insane? That can be the only explanation."

Explaining the note, a Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "We always send a message on the National Day of every country. It was a message of goodwill to the people of Zimbabwe."

A Buckingham Palace spokesman said: "In a case such as this the Queen is acting constitutionally on the advice of her ministers."

Meanwhile, the tense stand-off between white farmers and black squatters is continuing, despite a pledge by leaders of the illegal occupations to halt political violence.

Landowners have agreed to further discussions on a demand by squatters that farmers sign over land they have claimed on more than 1,000 farms.

'Not anti-white'

Mr Mugabe, denying that he was "anti-white", said the land crisis would be solved "soon".

He told the BBC: "We want to be positive. We want to correct this land question in the interests of everybody.

"We are not anti-white, not at all, but on the land question I think... the people in Europe don't understand how deeply this land question touches our heart."

Asked why police were not investigating violence against farmers, Mr Mugabe there were war veterans in the police and he wanted to avoid a clash between them.

"This may be a long way to the solution but it is a much smoother way, I can assure you."

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See also:

19 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Blair condemns Zimbabwe violence
18 Apr 00 | Media reports
Mugabe's anniversary speech
19 Apr 00 | Africa
Cook puts pressure on Mugabe
18 Apr 00 | UK Politics
UK could take 20,000 Zimbabweans
20 Apr 00 | Africa
Mugabe: No end to occupation
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