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Mugabe Cannot Continue to Oppress Zimbabweans, Rice Tells VOA - 2003-02-26

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe says President Bush is trying to impose his will on weaker nations. The White House says Mr. Mugabe's economic mismanagement is making life worse for the Zimbabwean people.

In a speech at the Non-Aligned summit in Malaysia Tuesday, Mr. Mugabe said President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair are imperialists engaged in what he calls a "new form of colonialism" over developing countries.

The Zimbabwean leader said Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair have turned themselves into what he calls "hunting bulldogs as they sniff for Third World blood."

The United States and Britain have been some of the harshest critics of the Mugabe government's seizure of white-owned farms, as well as the alleged rigging of last year's presidential elections, which kept Mr. Mugabe in power.

White House National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice emphasized the international community must make clear to President Mugabe that he cannot continue to oppress his own people.

"The world needs to unite and send a strong message to Zimbabwe that the appalling behavior of the Mugabe government, not just in the way that the elections were handled but in everything leading-up to the elections, is really not condoned or appropriate and can not be accepted in the modern world," she said.

President Mugabe drew protests at a Franco-African summit in Paris last week when French President Jacques Chirac got a waiver of a European Union travel ban prohibiting the Zimbabwean leader from visiting Europe.

In an interview with VOA, Ms. Rice said it was a "very bad thing" for France to host President Mugabe, but she noted it was a French meeting, so it is their decision.

More important, she added, Mr. Mugabe's poor human rights record and economic mismanagement is making life worse for Zimbabweans at a time when President Bush is increasing development assistance to reward African countries investing in health and education, good governance, and economic reform.

"Mugabe is the exact opposite of that," said Ms. Rice. "And so not only Europe and the United States, but also the African countries themselves need to stand up and say that this is simply unacceptable in the 21st century."

For President Mugabe, Washington is guilty of setting double standards by pushing to disarm Iraq without taking similar steps to give-up U.S. weapons of mass destruction.