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In UN Speech, Zimbabwe's Mugabe Lashes Into US, Britain

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Wednesday delivered a particularly bitter denunciation of Western critics in the United Nations General Assembly, lashing out at U.S. President George Bush for what he called "hypocrisy" in describing his Harare government as "tyrannical," and denouncing U.S. policy in Iraq and elsewhere.

Mr. Mugabe accused the United States and Britain of seeking to maintain neo-colonial control over Zimbabwe and of attempting to engineer "regime change" there. "I am termed (a) dictator because I have rejected this supremacist view and frustrated the neo-colonialists in their endeavor to keep us as slaves in our own country."

Mr. Mugabe took exception to President Bush's reference to his government as a "tyrannical regime" in a speech Tuesday to the General Assembly.

President Bush said Mr. Mugabe's "tyrannical regime" was "an assault on its people and an affront to the principles of the (U.N.) Universal Declaration" of Human Rights.

Mr. Mugabe responded that Mr. Bush "has much to atone for and little to lecture us on (regarding) the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. His hands drip with blood of many innocent nationalities, and today with the blood of the Iraqis."

Mr. Mugabe dwelt on the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for terror suspects. "At that concentration camp, international law does not apply...laws of the United States of America do not apply. Only Bush's law applies."

He accused Britain and the United States of pursuing "a relentless campaign of destabilizing and vilifying my country." He said the two nations "sponsored surrogate forces to challenge lawful authority in my country," this a reiteration of the charge, often lodged by Harare, that the opposition is Western-sponsored.

"They seek regime change," he said. "They seek regime change - not my people."

Mr. Mugabe said Zimbabwe "will not allow a regime change offered by outsiders. Mr. Bush and Mr. Brown have no role to play in our own national affairs. They are outsiders and mischievous outsiders and should therefore keep out."

Mr. Mugabe expressed "gratitude" toward South African President Thabo Mbeki for his mediation of talks between the ruling ZANU-PF party and opposition Movement for Democratic Change which in recent days has yielded a compromise constitutional amendment which President Mugabe said "paved the way" for 2008 elections.

"Consequently, we will be holding multiple democratic elections in March" next year, Mr. Mugabe told the General Assembly. "Indeed, we have always had timeous general and presidential elections since our independence."

Zimbabwean elections since 2000 have been marred by allegations of ballot-rigging and official intimidation of voters. Sanctions targeting Mr. Mugabe's inner circle were imposed by Western countries after the contested 2002 presidential election.

The Southern African Development Community asked Mr. Mbeki to mediate crisis talks between the ruling ZANU-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change in late March after Mr. Mugabe's government launched a crackdown on opponents in which an opposition activist was shot to death March 11.

Photographs of the badly beaten opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai emerging from police custody galvanized world opinion and led Southern African leaders to convene an extraordinary summit at which Mr. Mbeki was handed his mediation brief.

Earlier Wednesday, Mr. Mugabe met with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in an encounter sources said was less than cordial. Mr. Mugabe was said to have refused to accept U.N. humanitarian assistance offered by Ban, and to have expressed himself “forcefully” when humanitarian issues, democracy and human rights came up.

Reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reported from the United Nations on the developments in the run-up to Mr. Mugabe's speech.

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