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Nomination Of Zimbabwe Minister To Head U.N. Panel Stirs Polemic

The United States and Britain have expressed their opposition to the election of a member of the cabinet of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to chair the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development.

But news reports, among them a Financial Times article, said it is likely that Environment Minister Francis Nhema will be elected to the post this week as it is the turn of Africa to name the panel's chief and nomination has broad African support.

The commission's brief is to examine the relationship between development and the environment. The U.N. panel was established in 1993.

The FT quoted a U.N. diplomat as saying Nhema "looked almost certain" to clinch the commission chair after securing the African nomination last month.

The U.N. is expected to announce the new appointment on May 11.

U.S. State Department spokesman Tom Casey said Friday that “we don’t think that Zimbabwe would be a particularly effective leader of this body,” as development in Zimbabwe has “been going in only one direction. And it's backwards.”

Zimbabwe’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Boniface Chidyausiku, told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyelye of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the rotating committee chair process at the institution made it a foregone conclusion that Nhema would chair the panel, over Western objections.

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