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Zimbabwe's Mugabe Rules Out Talks with Opposition MDC - 2003-12-05

Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe has ruled out any talks with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, the MDC. He made the comments in a speech to more than 2,000 delegates at the annual congress of the ruling Zanu-PF party.

Mr. Mugabe said he saw no point in engaging the MDC in talks, which the South African, Malawian and Nigerian governments, as well as prominent church leaders have tried to encourage.

He said the MDC was a party that represented colonial interests, and urged his supporters "to crush the opposition."

The 79-year-old president also said, if he had to choose between membership of the Commonwealth, currently meeting in Nigeria, and Zimbabwe's sovereignty, he would quit "the club," as he called the 54-nation alliance.

The president's speech set a bitter tone for the Zanu-PF congress, with speaker after speaker from among the political elite denouncing western imperialism and neocolonialism. Mr. Mugabe himself said Zimbabwe now aligns itself with China rather than the West.

But he admitted Zimbabwe is facing huge problems, including soaring inflation and a deteriorating health system. He said he wished the remaining few white farmers would leave the country, and made it clear he did not consider whites to be Zimbabweans.

There are only a few hundred white farmers left in Zimbabwe from more than 4,000 before seizures of their land began in 2000.