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World Leaders Condemn Mugabe's Presence at UN Food Summit


Western leaders are condemning the presence of Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe at a United Nations-sponsored food security conference in Rome.

U.S. President George Bush issued a statement noting that while Mr. Mugabe makes political statements in Rome, Zimbabweans face empty markets. Mr. Bush said he is concerned that what he called "misguided government policies" are expected to bring one of the worst crop harvests in Zimbabwe's history.

British International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander said he is outraged that Mr. Mugabe is in Rome, and Alexander is refusing to shake hands or meet with him.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ed Shafer also said he will not speak to Mr. Mugabe.

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith called Mr. Mugabe's presence "obscene," and accused him of presiding over the starvation of his people.

Zimbabwe is struggling with food shortages and inflation of more than 160,000 percent. Critics blame the problems on Mr. Mugabe's policy of redistributing white-owned commercial farms. Mr. Mugabe blames Western sanctions.

President Bush says the United States spent more than $170 million in food aid to Zimbabwe last year and is currently feeding more than one million Zimbabweans. He says those efforts will continue.

The European Union has a long-standing travel ban on President Mugabe because of his human rights record. But the ban does not apply to U.N. events.

This week's summit is sponsored by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. Participants plan to discuss food security and soaring world food prices that have led to riots in several countries.

USAID administrator, Henrietta Fore says the United States is focused on doubling food production, starting in Africa.

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