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Zimbabwe's President Rejects Calls to Quit


Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has rejected calls to resign issued by U.S. President George Bush and the European Union.

At a political rally December 23, Mr. Mugabe dismissed the pressure that has grown out of unsuccessful efforts to form a new power sharing government.

The political stalemate continues as Zimbabwe struggles to contain a cholera outbreak and a massive food shortage, a crisis the U.S. blames on Mr. Mugabe's policies.

In Zimbabwe, people are desperate for food. Young boys scavenge through a garbage dump, while this woman digs underground.

In one village where the food has run out, a woman collects caterpillars to survive.

The United Nations says 5.5 million Zimbabweans now need food assistance.

At the same time the country is struggling with a cholera epidemic. More than 1,100 people have died and 24,000 others have been sickened since August.

Felisitas Vambe is boiling leaves in contaminated water. "I caught cholera here because of the way I live," she said. "There is sewage and flies everywhere. My daughter has had diarrhea for a couple of days."

The Red Cross has issued an appeal for more than $9 million to pay for doctors, medical supplies and sanitation facilities.

As the humanitarian crisis worsens, international leaders have stepped up pressure on President Robert Mugabe to step down. But at a political rally in Harare on Tuesday, the president remained defiant, rejecting President Bush's demand that he quit. "So, let him [President Bush] keep his comments to himself. They are undeserved, irrelevant, and quite stupid and foolish," he said.

Earlier this month, the U.S. State Department said Washington had lost confidence in a power-sharing agreement between Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party and Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change.

Jendayi Frazier, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, says Washington no longer supports a proposal that leaves Mr. Mugabe as president. "His time is over. The power-sharing agreement should be implemented, and it needs to be implemented with someone other than Robert Mugabe as the president," Frazier said.

Mr. Mugabe blames his country's troubles on international sanctions. In recent days, he has become more forceful about remaining in power. "I will never, never, never surrender. Zimbabwe is mine," Mugabe said.

As Mr. Mugabe maintains his grip on power, the US and the European Union are working on expanding sanctions against top officials of his government. Some observers doubt it will be enough to force him from office.

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