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In Annual Speech, Mugabe Denounces West, Cautions Dissenters

President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe delivered a state of the nation address to the Harare parliament on Wednesday in which he urged United Nations reform, chided Western nations he said were plotting regime change, predicted a rebound in the moribund economy and warned dissenters he would deal harshly with them.

Mr. Mugabe called for the U.N. Security Council to be expanded to include developing nation. He denounced Great Britain and the United States, which he accused of trying to bring about regime change. Mr. Mugabe also warned that dissent expressed "under the guise of freedom of expression" would be suppressed.

"The country continues to enjoy peace and tranquillity despite attempts by some misguided elements to fuel anarchy under the guise of freedom of expression and association," Mr. Mugabe told the joint session of parliament.

"While the country respects and affords everyone the right of assembly and association, the use of such platforms as tools to advance the British-inspired regime change agenda cannot be tolerated," said Mugabe, who turns 83 in February.

One faction of the divided Movement for Democratic Change boycotted the speech in August House while legislators of a rival faction attended. The MDC faction of Morgan Tsvangirai said it was through listening to Mr. Mugabe, in power since 1980, while the Arthur Mutambara faction said it would remain involved in the political process.

Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the Tsvangirai faction said its legislators boycotted the speech because they do not recognize Mr. Mugabe as president, maintaining that the 2002 presidential election, in which Tsvangirai faced Mr. Mugabe, was rigged.

But spokesman Gabriel Chaibva of the Mutambara faction said a boycott did not make sense as Mr. Mugabe remains the head of state regardless of political differences.

Mr. Mugabe offered an upbeat outlook for agriculture despite widespread concerns about shortages of critical inputs, particularly fertilizer, in the current season. He also predicted that strong farming and mining output would pull the economy out of its long decline, along with his “Look East” policy which he said is now bearing fruit.

He said the government would not back away from a controversial mining law which proposes to give the state and local investors a controlling stake in all mines, noting that the controversial legislation was at an “advanced stage.”

For an opposition view, reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe spoke with Ernest Mudzengi, director of the National Constitutional Assembly, who said Mr. Mugabe’s charges of Western plotting are calculated to deceive the population.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...