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Mugabe wants more nationalization, more political control

  • Story Highlights
  • Zimbabwe has suffered for 8 years from the highest inflation in the world
  • The policies of Robert Mugabe, running again for president, are blamed
  • Mugabe wants more nationalization of industries, more control of government
  • Analysts say Mugabe's proposals could increase uncertainty in the nation
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HARARE, Zimbabwe (Reuters) -- Zimbabwe's embattled President Robert Mugabe thinks there is a conspiracy against him.

Mugabe opened a new session of parliament Tuesday by saying his government was battling to turn around the economy, which he says is a victim of sabotage by Western and local opponents trying to end his rule.

Fact Box

  • Fastest shrinking economy of a country outside a war zone
  • Highest inflation rate in the world (1,042.9 percent, officially)
  • Annualized inflation 3,713.9 percent;officially as of April; unofficial May percentage is 4,500
  • 60,000 tons of wheat imported to ease bread shortages. 400,000 to 450,000 tons needed annually

"Our economy continues to face challenges arising from the illegal sanctions imposed by our enemies," Mugabe told the House of Assembly and the upper Senate.

The 83-year-old leader is expected to push through radical plans to nationalize foreign firms ahead of general elections next year.

Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, is seeking re-election despite accusations he has plunged the southern African state into its worst economic crisis ever through a raft of controversial policies.

Political analysts says proposed legislation before the chambers and Mugabe's national plans could increase uncertainties about Zimbabwe's future.

The proposed Constitutional Amendment Bill consolidates the electoral calendar and has clauses giving parliament power to elect a new president if a vacancy occurred between elections. The analysts say this could give Mugabe an avenue to retire after the 2008 polls, due by next March, with room to influence who will succeed him.

Mugabe plans to transfer control of all companies, including foreign banks and some mining operations, to locals under the black empowerment bill would further damage an economy already hit by his other controversial policies, they say.

Zimbabwe under Mugabe largely follows British traditions in its parliamentary protocol, including opening annual sessions amid pomp and pageantry.

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Mugabe arrived for the official opening in a convertible black Rolls Royce with his wife, Grace, in a long motorcade led by police on horseback and to loud cheering by hundreds of supporters from his ZANU-PF party.

When he started speaking, Mugabe -- who was wearing a navy blue business suit, a sky blue shirt and a royal blue tie -- struggled with a croaky voice, before finding his normal timbre. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Copyright 2007 Reuters. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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