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Zimbabwe's President Mugabe Criticizes US, Britain in UN Speech

Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, has spoken out at the United Nations in defense of his country's urban demolition campaign. The Zimbabwean leader lashed out at two of his strongest critics, the United States and Britain.

Mr. Mugabe Sunday rejected a U.N. report that described Zimbabwe's destruction of urban slums as a "catastrophic unjustice" against the poor. In an address to the General Assembly, the embattled Zimbabwean leader called the findings of a U.N. investigator "insulting and degrading."

"I the aftermath of our urban clean-up operation, popularly called Operation Murambastsvina, or Restore Order, the familiar noises re-echoed from the same malicious prophets of doom, claiming that there was a humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe," said Mr. Mugabe. "Those unfounded alarms are aimed at deliberately tarnishing the image of Zimbabwe, and projecting it as a failed state."

In a 100-page report issued last July, the Tanzanian director of the U.N. Habitat organization, Anna Tibaijuka, concluded that the urban demolition campaign was ill-conceived and inhumane. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called the report "profoundly distressing."

But in his comments to the General Assembly, Mr. Mugabe ridiculed the Tibaijuka Report, saying it was effectively calling for "development in reverse." He accused Britain, of attempting to score cheap political points by bringing up the urban demolition campaign at the U.N. Security Council.

"It is my hope that member countries will join us in rejecting this neo-colonialist attempt and blatant interference in the internal affairs of Zimbabwe," he added. "But is it not obvious that Britain, under the regime of Tony Blair, has ceased to respect the charter of the United Nations."

Mr. Mugabe also lashed out at the United States for its response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. He charged that authorities had deliberately abandoned non-white Americans in what he called an example of "callous racial neglect."

"Most of the victims were blacks, and we are bound to ask what transgressions we, the blacks of this world, have committed? Was it not enough punishment and suffering in history that we were uprooted and made helpless slaves?" asked Mr. Mugabe.

President Bush has said every race was affected by the hurricane, but he acknowledged that the greatest hardship fell on the poor, and that poverty has its roots in generations of segregation and discrimination. He appealed to Americans to "clear away the legacy of inequality."

In his U.N. speech, the 81-year-old Zimbabwean leader also criticized what he referred to as "detractors and ill-wishers" for reporting mass starvation in his country. He said "there has been none of that."

In an interview with The Associated Press during his visit to New York, Mr. Mugabe said people in his country are not hungry, they just cannot eat their favorite food. He told The AP, Zimbabweans are "very, very happy." Aid agencies have said four million out of the country's 11.5 million people face famine.