Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Wednesday chided the West from the podium of the United Nations summit on climate change in Copenhagen for what he charged was a double standard under which it fell short on addressing global warming while taking developing countries to task over human rights.
Mr. Mugabe told the climate change summit: "When these capitalist gods of carbon burp and belch their dangerous emissions, it's we, the lesser mortals of the developing sphere who gasp and sink and eventually die."
He complained that polluters are not pursued by Western governments with the same zeal they show in castigating abusers of human rights.
"Why," asked Mr. Mugabe, "is the guilty North not showing the same fundamentalist spirit it exhibits in our developing countries on human rights matters on this more menacing threat of climate change?"
He appeared to single out the United States in his remarks, demanding, "When a country spits on the Kyoto Protocol by seeking to shrink from its diktats, or by simply refusing to accede to it, is it not violating the global rule of law?" The United States has declined to sign the Kyoto Protocol.
He said the developing world would be called upon to clean up the mess left by the industrialized West, therefore deserved ample climate-related funding.
"We who bear the burden of healing the gasping earth must draw the most from the global purse for remedial action," Mr. Mugabe declared.
The Zimbabwean president's arrival in Copenhagen caused a stir among critics who said he should not have been admitted to the country let alone the climate summit given his record on human rights and general issues of governance. He has drawn such fire on numerous occasions at U.N. conferences, particularly the annual gathering on food security in Rome where skeptics have contrasted his country's dire situation after a decade of land reform with his rhetoric.
Denmark and the 26 other European Union states have barred Mr. Mugabe and many other ZANU-PF officials and supporters from travel within the economic and political bloc – but such sanctions do not apply to U.N. gatherings.
President Mugabe’s delegation of 70, meanwhile, came under fire at home given the cost incurred by such a large entourage. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai canceled his plans to attend the summit with a smaller group citing massive official travel costs since the unity government's formation in February.
Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmessen was called upon to explain Mr. Mugabe’s presence to human rights activists and responded that “nobody can be in doubt about my attitude toward Mugabe and Zimbabwe,” but defended the diplomatic decision to admit Mr. Mugabe to his country.
Geneva-based human rights lawyer Marlon Zakeyo told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu that Mr. Mugabe can attend such meetings under diplomatic rules regarding U.N. meetings - but must be reminded of his excesses.
Sources in Harare said meanwhile that Mr. Mugabe, Mr. Tsvangirai and the third unity government principal, Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, have told their negotiators to address all remaining contentious issues on the table in the latest round of talks and submit a final report to them before Monday.
The three principals issued the instruction after meeting on Monday to discuss a preliminary report submitted by their negotiators on progress to date.
A statement from President Mugabe’s office published in the state-run Herald newspaper said the principals agreed on some of the recommendations from the negotiators for Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party and the two formations of the Movement for Democratic Change, but disagreed on others.
Minister of State Gorden Moyo, attached to Mr. Tsvangirai's office, told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that the principals want to achieve closure on the so-called outstanding issues before Christmas.
Elsewhere, Harare correspondent Irwin Chifera reported that Parliament's select committee on constitutional reform said public consultations on redrafting of the basic document, postponed several times, will finally begin next month.