Page last updated at 21:55 GMT, Wednesday, 25 June 2008 22:55 UK

Queen strips Mugabe of knighthood

Robert Mugabe and the Queen in 1994
Mr Mugabe's honorary knighthood was conferred on him during a state visit

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's honorary Knighthood has been annulled by the Queen.

Mr Mugabe, condemned over violence ahead of a presidential run-off election, was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in 1994.

That was withdrawn earlier, as Gordon Brown announced "intensified sanctions" and a cricket tour was called off.

And former South African leader Nelson Mandela spoke in London of a "tragic failure of leadership" in Zimbabwe.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has faced calls in the Commons for Mr Mugabe's honorary Knighthood to be withdrawn - most recently from Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg.

Human rights

But the government has been wary of playing into President Mugabe's claims that Africa is under siege from Britain - the former colonial power.

However amid international condemnation of the planned presidential run-off vote on Friday, despite the withdrawal of the opposition because of violence and intimidation, the honour was withdrawn amid several new punitive measures.

It is important that we use even symbolic measures to underline our disgust at what Mugabe and his henchmen are now doing in Zimbabwe
Nick Clegg
Liberal Democrats

A Foreign Office spokesman said they would continue to focus on improving life for ordinary Zimbabweans but added: "We can no longer justify an individual who is responsible for a consistent campaign of human rights violations and the disregard for the democratic process retaining an honour."

He added: "His actions have proved beyond all argument that he is not worthy to retain this honour."

'Wholly inappropriate'

Mr Mugabe was appointed as an honorary Knight Grand Cross in the Order of Bath during his state visit to the UK in 1994. The Foreign Office said conditions in Zimbabwe were then "very different".

Lib Dem leader Mr Clegg told the BBC: "It is symbolic but it is important that we use even symbolic measures to underline our disgust at what Mugabe and his henchmen are now doing in Zimbabwe.

He agreed that Mr Mugabe would "laugh it off" but said: "That is no reason not to do it. I think it is wholly inappropriate for a knighthood to be retained by someone who is behaving with such unforgivable brutality."

Gordon Brown talks about Zimbabwe at PMQs

For the Conservatives, William Hague said his party had also called for the knighthood to be withdrawn, adding: "A knighthood is one of the highest honours an individual in the United Kingdom can achieve.

"The brutality he has shown to his own people and the disaster he brought upon his own country made Robert Mugabe utterly unworthy of this honour."

Later former South African president Nelson Mandela, who has previously been silent about Mr Mugabe's regime, briefly addressed the issue in a speech at a dinner in London to mark his 90th birthday.

Cricket tour cancelled

He said: "We watch with sadness the continuing tragedy in Darfur. Nearer to home we have seen the outbreak of violence against fellow Africans in our own country and the tragic failure of leadership in our neighbouring Zimbabwe."

Meanwhile the England and Wales Cricket Board has announced it has cancelled Zimbabwe's 2009 tour, saying it shared government concerns about the "deteriorating situation and lack of human rights in Zimbabwe".

And Mr Brown announced the government was preparing "intensified sanctions", including travel and financial restrictions, against "the criminal cabal" trying to keep Mr Mugabe in power.

Conservative leader David Cameron urged a full visa ban for Mr Mugabe and his officials, during exchanges with Mr Brown at prime minister's questions.

Mr Cameron said there was "universal anger" over the "stolen election" results and urged businesses and individuals who had any dealings with the president's regime to examine their conscience.

Mr Brown agreed that businesses should "look at their involvement" in the troubled nation.

"I believe the whole world has woken up to the evils that are going on in Zimbabwe," he said.

"What we want to see is an end to the violence and a peaceful transition in Zimbabwe - that's why the efforts of the African Union are so important."

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