Zimbabwe’s president rejects calls for talks with political opposition
HARARE, Zimbabwe – President Robert Mugabe on Monday rejected calls for talks with Zimbabwe’s opposition leader on resolving the country’s political and economic crisis.In a clear reference to neighboring South Africa, Mugabe said he is getting pressure to hold talks with opposition Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai from “quarters that should know better.””Today we tell all those calling for such ill-conceived talks to please stop their misdirected efforts,” Mugabe told thousands of cheering supporters at the annual commemoration of the war to end white rule in this former breakaway British colony.Zimbabwe has asked South Africa for a $1 billion loan to pay arrears on its loan from the International Monetary Fund and to buy critically short supplies like food and fuel.South Africa reportedly is pressuring Zimbabwe to make economic policy changes and to take steps to resolve its political crisis as conditions for an emergency loan.Movement for Democratic Change spokesman Paul Themba-Nyathi accused Mugabe of failing to lead the country in a positive direction and said that naturally concerned neighbors like South Africa.”Only someone with his head firmly buried in the sand would not understand why there are calls for dialogue,” Themba-Nyathi said.In his speech, Mugabe scoffed at critics of his human rights and governance record, including the United States and Britain. He also said his “Look East” policy toward China and other Asian countries was having “quantifiable results.”He made no direct reference to his reported failure to win Beijing’s backing for his ailing economy or to talks with South Africa on the loan that would prevent Zimbabwe’s possible expulsion from the IMF next month.Mugabe said it would be better to talk with British Prime Minister Tony Blair than with opposition leader Tsvangirai.”We would rather talk to the people who manipulate the puppets,” said Mugabe, who has blamed Britain and the United States for all of Zimbabwe’s problems.The European Union, the United States, Australia and New Zealand have imposed “targeted sanctions” on approximately 100 prominent members of Mugabe’s regime and their families, banning them from travel and freezing bank accounts”If they (the MDC) are sincere, let them call an end to the odious sanctions they have invited. They invited the West to impose sanctions. They should now invite them to drop sanctions against us if they want to talk to us,” Mugabe said.Western governments deny any trade or loan boycott has been imposed on Zimbabwe and say all existing sanctions, which aim to force Zimbabwe to restore the rule of law, target only members of the ruling elite.Mugabe also defended his so-called cleanup campaign in which shacks and kiosks were demolished, leaving up to 700,000 people without homes or jobs. Zimbabwean churches have denounced the campaign as “a crime against humanity” and a U.N. report called for the punishment of those responsible.”The exercise created some difficulties for individuals and families accommodated in informal settlements,” said Mugabe. “We could not have allowed that settlement to go on any longer together with the illegal activities which thrive on such environments.”He called foreign critics of the demolitions “loud hypocrites who speak in defense of slums that brutalize our people.””Let those long distance philanthropists who want to romanticize shacks … tell us why they don’t allow them in their own land,” said Mugabe.Vail – Colorado
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