Zimbabwe tensions hit Earth Summit
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Tension surfaced at the Earth Summit as Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe lashed out at his critics, especially UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Addressing the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, Mugabe said Zimbabwe had fought hard for its sovereignty and was prepared to "shed blood" to keep it.
Zimbabwe was criticised by the international community and suspended from the Commonwealth after it ruled that presidential elections held in March were unfair, with the European Union displaying its own disapproval by imposing sanctions.
Mugabe, who won the election to continue his 22 years of rule, said the sanctions did not concern him. "We don't mind having sanctions banning us from Europe. We are not Europeans."
He has long been antagonistic towards Blair, saying on Monday: "Blair, keep your England. Let us keep our Zimbabwe."
He said that his policy of forcing white farmers from their land to re-distribute to black workers would not deprive white farmers of land completely, as they were entitled to just one farm each. "No farmer is being left without land."
Speaking earlier to the assembled world leaders, Blair had highlighted Africa as being of particular need. The summit is seeking ways to alleviate poverty while protecting the environment.
"If Africa is a scar on the conscience of our world, the world has a duty to heal it," he added.
Blair said tackling Africa's deprivation was his "passion."
Ten minutes before he went to the podium Blair had been blamed by Namibian President Sam Nujoma for Africa's problems.
"Here in southern Africa we have one big problem, created by the British. The honourable Tony Blair is here and he created the situation in Zimbabwe," Nujoma said.
Nujoma supports Mugabe and his policy of ousting white farmers from Zimbabwe and re-distributing their land to blacks. Nujoma described the white farmers as British "colonial settlers."
While Blair made no response to Nujoma's comments, he had earlier told reporters that he hoped to discuss Zimbabwe's "appalling catalogue of mismanagement and corruption" with regional leaders during the summit.
Another of Mugabe's critics, New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, blamed his policies for exacerbating a food crisis in southern Africa.
"In one case this disaster has been made much worse by deliberate and cynical government policies," Clark said, although she did not name Mugabe.
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