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A More Temperate Mugabe Urges Greater Development, AIDS Funding

Unnamed Western countries are still intent on bringing about so-called regime change in Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe declared Thursday in a speech before the 61st United Nations General Assembly. But his address was less polemical than on other such occasions, and focused on increasing funding to poor nations.

Mr. Mugabe critized the Western approach to developing countries, but mentioned no country by name. He accused “some countries and groups” of blocking development, imposing illegal sanctions, and imposing unfair tariffs.

"In the case of Zimbabwe, these countries have blocked any balance-of-payments or other supports from the international financial institutions that they control," he said. In spite of a "heroic effort" to pay down International Monetary Fund arrears, "these negative forces manipulated decision-making" at the IMF to deny new funding.

"Is it not a paradox that while we are denied resources for development, funding is readily made available to support elements bent on subverting the democratically expressed will of the majority of our citizens and to unconstitutionally effect regime change," he said. "We condemn this interference in our domestic affairs."

On HIV-AIDS, Mr. Mugabe deplored what he contended was the "tendency to use assistance in the fight against HIV and AIDS as reward for political compliance and malleability" and urged the U.N. to condemn any such discrimination.

The Zimbabwean leader also urged the U.N. to condemn donors whom he accused of funding anti-AIDS campaigns only in countries that are compliant with their wishes.

He told the U.N. audience that Africa could rise to the status of a global partner, if the international community would provide expanded debt relief and financial aid.

President Mugabe opened his speech with a lengthy commendation of Kofi Annan, the outgoing U.N. secretary general, and in the balance of his remarks was suprisingly temperate in his comments on those who he considers intent on toppling him.

Some were surprised he did not take the lead of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in blasting U.S. President George Bush - among them Patrick Smith, editor of Africa Confidential, a London-based newspaper on African politics and business.

Smith told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyele of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that while Mr. Mugabe's tone somber, his message was consistent with earlier statements.

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