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Zimbabwe Leader Critical of US After Congress Voted for Sanctions - 2001-12-18

President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe has again accused the United States of interfering in the country's internal affairs when Congress voted for sanctions against him and senior members of his government. Mr. Mugabe told parliament Tuesday that the government wants to live in peace with all nations and all its citizens.

In his annual state of the nation address Tuesday, President Mugabe was strongly critical of the Zimbabwe Democracy Act passed by the United States Congress earlier this month.

The act, which still must be signed into law, provides for assistance to the country if the government keeps to the rule of law, while allowing the White House to impose sanctions on Mr. Mugabe and senior officials if democracy is not maintained.

President Mugabe said he strongly opposes the measure. "The behavior of this legislature is repugnant, provocative and, indeed, a gross violation of international law," he said.

In his hour-long speech, Mr. Mugabe said the seizure of thousands of white-owned commercial farms is designed to give back land to ordinary people who he said have been the victims of injustices under colonial rule. "Our land reform policies have never been motivated by the desire for vengeance, for settling past scores. In our quest for land reform, we sought to engage all nations of goodwill," he said.

At least a dozen farmers and workers have been killed in violence that has stemmed from the seizures and invasions by militants who support Mr. Mugabe.

Human rights groups said that at least 70,000 farm workers have been forced to flee.

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe government said that a law will be passed by parliament this week to give the police and army greater powers to break up political meetings and clamp down on civil disturbances. The law will also exempt the authorities from prosecution in certain cases if someone is killed.

The government said the law is to combat terrorism but Zimbabwe human rights groups said the basic freedom of individuals is being seriously eroded.