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Zimbabwe's Mugabe Expected to Meet with UN Secretary-General


Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, is expected to hold talks with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the sidelines of an African Union summit in The Gambia. The talks are meant to find a solution to Zimbabwe's worsening economic and political crisis. But Mr. Mugabe is rejecting any international involvement in Zimbabwe's internal affairs.

Speaking at the funeral of one of his Cabinet ministers, Mr. Mugabe dismissed talk of international initiatives to rescue Zimbabwe.

He acknowledged Zimbabwe is hurting economically, but vowed the country would not collapse. However, he said the country would welcome financial assistance. He said what the country really needs is what he called just and lawful treatment by Western countries.

U.N. Secretary-General Annan was invited to Harare last year, following the government's campaign to demolish unauthorized houses and informal businesses. The campaign left tens-of-thousands of people homeless.

A U.N. report condemned the slum destruction campaign, calling it a "disastrous venture". Government officials justified it as an effort to drive out illegal squatters and criminals.

Earlier this year, a Zimbabwean government official said the invitation to Secretary Annan was "stale," and there was no need for him to visit Harare. However, Mr. Annan's spokesman said last month that he has left open the possibility of a visit to Harare in the future.

Opposition Movement for Democratic Change spokesperson Nelson Chamisa says Mr. Mugabe and his party are in denial and out of touch with ordinary Zimbabweans. Chamisa says the ruling party should admit Zimbabwe is in deep crisis, so the international community can respond accordingly.

Zimbabwe is facing its worst economic crisis since independence 20 years ago, with inflation close to 1200 percent, high unemployment and chronic shortages of foreign currency, fuel and food.