Zimbabwean State Security Minister Didymus Mutasa said Monday that Zimbabwe's armed forces were on high alert following a report in a London newspaper that former British prime minister Tony Blair in 2002 and 2003 contemplated an invasion of the country to remove President Robert Mugabe from power.
The latest storm in British-Zimbabwean relations was set off by revelations in London's Independent newspaper, which quoted former British armed forces chief Lord Charles Guthrie as saying he had cautioned Blair against military action in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe's state-controlled Sunday Mail newspaper quoted presidential spokesman George Charamba as saying that Harare was aware of Blair's discussions of the use of military force to remove Mr. Mugabe, and were prepared to respond militarily.
"A defense plan had been operationalized and...is still in operation," Charamba told the Sunday Mail. "We were also aware that short of a fully-fledged invasion, the British were and are still contemplating the elimination of our political leadership through a number of assassinations," the Information Ministry permanent secretary added.
Reports said Britain refrained from invading Zimbabwe because of fear of the military strength of the Zimbabwe Defense Force, and also because of a lack of support from the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO.
State Security Minister Didymus Mutasa told VOA reporter Chinedu Offor that the government remains on guard against a possible invasion.
Political analyst Sydney Masamvu of the International Crisis Group said in an interview from Pretoria, South Africa, that although the information about Blair's consideration of invasion may not be new, Zimbabwe stands to make political capital out of it.
Masamvu told VOA reporter Peter Clottey that Harare will take advantage of the alleged threat to distract attention from more pressing national issues.
U.K-based analyst Innocent Sithole told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyele that the allegations, which seemed credible given the source, put Britain in a bad light.
A British Foreign Office spokesman dismissed the reports as ridiculous and declined to comment further on the matter.