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Mugabe Urges End to Sanctions After Power-Sharing Deal


Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has appealed for an end to international sanctions against his country now that a power-sharing agreement has been reached between his ruling party and the opposition. He spoke at the United Nations General Assembly session on Thursday that also included a message from Pakistan's new President, Asif Ali Zardari. VOA's David Gollust reports from our U.N. Bureau.

The United States, the European Union and others who have imposed sanctions against the Mugabe government because of political repression in Zimbabwe. They have withheld action on rescinding the measures, waiting to see whether the promised power-sharing with the opposition is real.

But in his General Assembly message, Robert Mugabe called for an immediate end to what he termed the "illegal sanctions" so that the government can focus, undisturbed on what he called its economic turn-round program.

The long-time Zimbabwean leader hailed South African President Thabo Mbeki, the southern Africa regional grouping SADC and others for helping to bring about the power-sharing deal, which Mr. Mugabe said was an African solution to an African problem.

Mr. Mugabe said his ZANU-PF party will abide by the spirit and letter of the accord but made no mention of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who became prime minister under the accord. At the same time, he delivered a blistering attack on the United States and others who put sanctions on the Zimbabwean leader and his key associates because of election-rigging and human rights abuses.

"Where is the protection of the small and innocent countries like mine from the threatened and real acts of aggression and punitive acts, often based on completely false allegations of violations of the rule of law, democracy or human rights? By the way, those who falsely accuse us of those violations are themselves international perpetrators of genocide and mass destruction," Mugabe said. "The innocent masses of men, women and children who have perished in their thousands in Iraq surely demand retribution and vengeance. Who shall heed their cry?"

Mr. Mugabe said the U.N. Security Council has been manipulated by powerful countries and said U.N. reform should include expanding the council to include two veto-wielding African members, while shifting major powers to the General Assembly.

The days session also include the first General Assembly speech by Pakistan's new President, Asif Ali Zardari.

Placing a photo of his late wife Benazir Bhutto on the rostrum as he spoke, Mr. Zardari pledged to combat the kinds of political extremism that took the life of Ms. Bhutto, who was assassinated last December in Rawalpindi.

Mr. Zardari appealed for international support for his government's anti-terrorism drive, but said the problem cannot be fought by military means alone. He said Pakistan wants to work with NATO forces stationed in neighboring Afghanistan. But he warned that military strikes into Pakistan are counter-productive.

"We must all fight this epic battle together as allies and partners," he said. "But just as we will not let Pakistan's territory to be used by terrorists for attacks against our people and our neighbors, we cannot allow our territory and our sovereignty to be violated by our friends. Attacks within Pakistan that violate our sovereignty actually serve to empower the forces against which we fight together."

The Pakistani leader was followed to the podium by Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Taha, who defended the Khartoum government's handling of the Darfur crisis, while blaming continued violence on the Darfur rebel factions who have refused to join the regional peace process.

He said the Darfur rebels do not want peace in Darfur, but rather regime change in the capital, as seen by their attack on Khartoum last May. The second-ranking Sudanese official also condemned the Darfur-related international arrest warrant against President Omar Hassan al-Bashir as illegal interference in Sudanese politics.