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Western Diplomats Back UN Chief on Harare's Refusal of Aid

Stepping up pressure on Harare to open up to humanitarian relief initiatives, the diplomatic missions of 13 donor nations and the European Union said they “strongly support” United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan’s statement this week taking the government to task for its refusal of u-n emergency assistance.

Mr. Annan through a spokesman publicly expressed his disappointment and dismay at Harare's refusal of a UN offer of tents to shelter some of the thousands of people made homeless and displaced by Zimbabwe's May-July slum-clearance drive.

"We endorse the secretary general’s appeal to the government of Zimbabwe to ensure that those who are out in the open, without shelter and without means of sustaining their lifelihoods, are provided with humanitarian assistance in collaboration with the united nations and the humanitarian community,” said the statement issued by the missions in Harare of Australia, Belgium, Canada, Greece, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as the European Commission, the EU governing body.

Harare has told U.N. officials it does not see a humanitarian crisis in the country, and that it has addressed the most urgent needs of displaced persons. Officials in Harare have said that Mr. Annan is misinformed, and has been misled by his staff.

Reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyele of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe sought a response to the joint donor statement from William Nhara, principal director in the office of the president and the cabinet, and a senior ZANU-PF ruling part official.

For additional perspective on the dispute between the Zimbabwean government and the international community, reporter Mwakalyelye turned to Eliphas Mukonoweshuro, a lecturer in political science at the University of Zimbabwe.

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