Farmers in Zimbabwe say violence and intimidation have continued on commercial farms, with pro-government militants refusing to allow crops to be planted. The government accuses the farmers of exaggerating the situation.

The Commercial Farmers Union says that during the past five days, militants have invaded at least a dozen farms. The union says three farmers and their families were barricaded in their homesteads by mobs armed with machetes and clubs.

The farmers union says the disruption of operations is the worst since invasions began in February last year. The union says that at least half of the country's 5,000 commercial farms have been affected.

About 80,000 workers and their families have been forced to leave farms during the past three months, and many are said to be destitute.

Lawlessness on farms has led the European Union to threaten to impose sanctions on President Robert Mugabe and his senior advisors. The Zimbabwe government says criticism of its policies is unjustified.

Vice President Joseph Msika says the farmers have greatly exaggerated the situation. He said the government is keeping to the rule of law.

Opposition parties say the government has abandoned an agreement signed in Nigeria in September to stop farm invasions.

A senior official of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change says President Mugabe is hoping that international pressure on Zimbabwe will ease, because western countries are pre-occupied with Afghanistan and the fight against terrorism.