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Mugabe Defends Land Policies at UN Summit

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has defended the land policies of his government which have been blamed for devastating the country's agricultural sector. Addressing delegates at a U.N. summit on world food security in Rome, the Mr. Mugabe said he is undoing a legacy left by Zimbabwe's former colonial masters. For VOA, Sabina Castelfranco reports from Rome.

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe is blamed for the economic collapse of a country that was once considered the southern Africa's breadbasket. Speaking to world leaders at a U.N. summit on the global food crisis in Rome, he blamed the West with its international sanctions for trying to cripple his nation's economy.

Mr. Mugabe defended his policies.

"Over the past decade Zimbabwe has democratized the land ownership patterns in the country with over 300,000 previously landless families now proud land owners," he said.

He added that in the past a mere 4,000 farmers, mainly of British ancestry, owned the land. Mr. Mugabe also said his policies have led to anger and retaliation by the United Kingdom.

"While this land reform program has been warmly welcomed by the vast majority of our people, it has however, and regrettably so, elicited wrath from our former colonial masters," Mugabe said. " In retaliation for the measures we took to empower the black majority, the United Kingdom has mobilized her friends and allies in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand to impose illegal economic sanctions against Zimbabwe."

The Zimbabwe's presence at the U.N. summit has been heavily criticized by some countries, including the United States.

State Department spokesman Tom Casey said Mr. Mugabe could only serve as an example of what not to do in terms of managing agricultural and food policy.

"Under President Mugabe's misrule, Zimbabwe has gone from being an exporter of food to an importer," Casey noted. "I don't think there is anyone out there who has looked at this issue who dies not feel that the tragic situation in Zimbabwe is not very much attributable to the ruinous policies, not only agricultural policies but other economic policies that President Mugabe's regime has followed and carried out."

He added that the Zimbabwe's president "misrule" has turned the country into a tragic place and Mr. Mugabe, he says, has a lot to answer for to his own people.