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At Rome Food Summit, Mugabe Alleges 'Neo-Colonialist' Sabotage of Economy

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Tuesday at a United Nations food summit in Rome defended his controversial decade-long land reform program as a matter of “equity and justice” and blamed the country's dramatic economic collapse in recent years on what he described as “neocolonialist enemies” in the West who have imposed sanctions.

Mr. Mugabe called on the West to lift those targeted sanctions or restrictions which bar him and other top officials of his long-ruling ZANU-PF party from travel to or financial holdings in the United States, the European Union, Australia and other countries.

The European Union and the United States have stated that they will not consider lifting the sanctions until the 2008 Global Political Agreement underpinning the unity government in Harare has been implemented in full. The Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has accused ZANU-PF of violating the terms of the power-sharing agreement in a number of ways and failing to respect the rule of law.

It is not the first time that Mr. Mugabe’s presence at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization summit has generated controversy - U.N. officials have not excluded him and travel restrictions are waived when he is attending U.N. gatherings.

Political analyst Charles Mangongera told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu that President Mugabe’s policies have left chaos on farms seized since 2000 from white farmers.

In Harare, meanwhile, the government's weekly Tuesday cabinet meeting was canceled due to Mr. Mugabe's absence in Rome, to the chagrin of his MDC governing partners.

The MDC has lobbied the Southern African Development Community, which is a guarantor of the power-sharing agreement, to press President Mugabe to allow Mr. Tsvangirai to chair the cabinet in Mr. Mugabe’s absence. But ZANU-PF has resisted this change.

A senior South African official said President Jacob Zuma is expected to visit Harare soon to assess progress in the talks between the principals in the inclusive government.

International Relations Department Director General Ayanda Ntsaluba told reporters in Pretoria Tuesday that the parties in Harare have been discussing the way forward.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...