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Britain Unwilling To Reopen Zimbabwe Land Reform Issue As Mugabe Proposes

A British Foreign Office official said Wednesday that mediation between Britain and Zimbabwe was not required, as Harare’s problems were of its own making and did not arise from a bilateral dispute. The comments suggested that the diplomatic initiative launched by President Robert Mugabe this weekend at an African Union summit, with Tanzanian ex-president Benjamin Mkapa as mediator, might be a non-starter.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the British official said the cancellation of United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan's visit to Zimbabwe was regrettable, as Annan could have highlighted international community concerns about the plight of ordinary Zimbabweans, as well as the need for the government of Zimbabwe to undertake economic and political reforms.

The official said Britain has always been willing to respond positively to any real commitment to sustainable reform in Zimbabwe, but that the U.K. has seen no evidence of such intentions coming from Mr. Mugabe and his government. He added that any mediation or rapprochement needed to take place first between the Mugabe government and the people it proposed to represent, because the government was responsible for the country’s problems. However, he said Britain remained willing to talk to anyone interested finding a solution to the country’s internal crisis.

President Mugabe maintains that the country's crisis stems from unfinished business with Britain over land reform following independence. But the UK official said London has always recognized the need for an equitable redistribution of land, and was ready to help, so long as it was done legally and fairly to benefit all parts of society.

For perspective on the looming impasse, Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe turned to Dewa Mavhinga, a human rights lawyer based at Essex University in England.

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