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Mugabe: Commonwealth Will Not Suspend Zimbabwe From Membership - 2001-12-22

In Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has reacted angrily to claims of human rights violations by the British Commonwealth, a 54-nation association of mostly former British colonies. The Zimbabwe leader accuses Britain of misleading the Commonwealth.

Mr. Mugabe says he does not expect the Commonwealth to suspend Zimbabwe from membership. In a meeting this week, Commonwealth foreign ministers considered the suspension of the country, citing concerns over human rights and the rule of law.

Mr. Mugabe told reporters he did not expect the Commonwealth to behave in what he called "an irregular manner." He also said, "People don't just take action because of the mad British government."

The Zimbabwe government has been censured for intimidating opposition parties and the media and for ignoring the rule of law over seizures of white-owned commercial farms.

On Friday U.S. President George Bush signed into law a bill providing for specific sanctions against Mr. Mugabe and senior officials. The Zimbabwe government says that the sanctions will hurt everyone in the country.

However, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supports the Washington move, saying it is aimed at specific individuals and not the country. MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai said Saturday at the party's annual national meeting that his party has never campaigned for sanctions against the country, only against the country's leader.

Human rights groups claim that more than 40 MDC officials and supporters have been murdered this year in political violence.

Nigerian president Olesgun Obasanjo, a key figure in the Commonwealth, is due to arrive in Zimbabwe Monday for discussions with Mr. Mugabe.

Earlier this year Nigeria worked out an agreement under which Zimbabwe agreed to abide by the rule of law over its seizure of white-owned commercial farms. But critics claim Mr. Mugabe has ignored the agreement.

At least a dozen farmers and workers have been killed in violence connected with the seizures, while 70,000 workers forced to flee the farms.