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Zimbabwe Issues New Leases to Seized Farms


Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe is giving out new, 99-year leases to farms seized under his government's controversial land reform program.

Mr. Mugabe handed out about 120 of the leases at a ceremony in Harare Thursday. Most of the receipients were black, though several whites considered supporters of the ruling party also received leases.

Some of those who received leases are high-ranking government officials.

Zimbabwe's government began seizing land from white farmers in 2000. Mr. Mugabe called the seizures a correction to British colonialism under which native blacks lost most of their fertile land.

Critics blame the seizures for a sharp drop in food production that triggered Zimbabwe's economic crisis. Once considered southern Africa's breadbasket, the country now suffers from unemployment of over 70 percent and inflation of over 1,000 percent.

Mr. Mugabe Thursday urged the new farmers to grow more food and crops for export.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.
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