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Blair brands Zimbabwe regime a 'disgrace'
London, United Kingdom

19 April 2006

tshaywaBritish Prime Minister Tony Blair launched a strongly-worded attack on Wednesday on Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, calling his regime a "disgrace" that had brought the country to its knees.

"What the regime is doing in Zimbabwe is a disgrace," Blair told Parliament in his weekly question-and-answer session when asked why Western governments appeared powerless to prevent "human tragedy" in the Southern African country.

"There are people suffering there in a country that is potentially wealthy," the prime minister said.

"We have had ourselves as a nation actually give humanitarian assistance to people and food-aid assistance in circumstances where, if the country were properly run, the people could be looked after there and looked after properly. "

Blair agreed that more needed to be done for Zimbabwe, where inflation was running at 913% and female life expectancy was now the lowest in the world at 34, according to a recent World Health Organisation assessment.

He said London was right to continue to exert diplomatic pressure on Harare, but he also acknowledged that finding a lasting, effective solution was more difficult.

"The only issue is what we can do about it, and what we are doing from this country is our very best to try and get the right diplomatic pressure on the Zimbabwean regime to change, but there is, I am afraid, a limit to what we can do," he added.

"But my belief in this is that while Zimbabwe remains as it is it casts a shadow over that whole part of Southern Africa and it is a tragedy for the people concerned."

Zimbabwe's relations with Britain have been strained over the past seven years after Mugabe launched sweeping land reforms that saw the government seizing properties from white commercial farmers, mostly of British descent.

The long-serving president has often accused Blair of harbouring plans to "re-colonise" Zimbabwe -- which as Rhodesia was a British colony until 1980 -- by using the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) as a front. -- AFP