Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe made the most of his controversial attendance at a United Nations food summit in Rome, charging in a speech Tuesday that Britain, the United States and other Western nations have tried to topple his government by imposing sanctions in response to the land reform he launched in 2000.
President Mugabe also accused Zimbabwean non-governmental organizations of collaborating with the West and supporting his political opposition through the distribution of food assistance, especially in the country’s rural areas.
Senor government officials worldwide continued to denounce Mr. Mugabe’s presence at the summit at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization called to address mounting grain prices which have sparked riots in some countries.
British International Development Minister Douglas Alexander, also attending the Rome summit, said Mr. Mugabe has impoverished his own nation.
U.S. State Department spokesman Tom Casey told reporters in Washington that Mr. Mugabe's presence made a mockery of the gathering because his policies have devastated agriculture in the former Southern African bread basket.
Asked whether the United States might expand food assistance to Zimbabwe, Casey said Washington is constantly monitoring conditions. He noted that the director of the Food for Peace program operated by the U.S. Agency for International Development or USAID was recently in the country assessing the situation.
Independent political analyst Hermann Hanekom told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Mr Mugabe’s presence in Rome was a disgrace.