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Zimbabwe's Mugabe Takes Umbrage at Tsvangirai Foreign Accolades

Stung by accolades showered on Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai while visiting Australia this week, President Robert Mugabe responded in a thinly-veiled attack, insinuating his ruling partner is being used by the West to work against the interests of ordinary Zimbabweans.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard early this week likened Mr. Tsvangirai to former South African President Nelson Mandela and such other icons as Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

"You are a hero. Like Nelson Mandela, like Aung San Suu Kyi, like Xanana Gusmao - you are one of the remarkable figures of our times,” Gillard said to Mr. Tsvangirai at a luncheon in his honor.

But an unimpressed Mugabe scolded Mr. Tsvangirai in a speech when he officially launched a share ownership scheme for villagers living in the controversial Marange diamond zone.

He warned the prime minister, without naming him, that he would be a fool if he allowed the praise to go to his head, adding the accolades were going Tsvangirai's way so he can divide the people.

Mr. Mugabe also dismissed critics of the Zanu PF-hatched empowerment program, urging those in the Diaspora to return and take part in the initiative.

Prime Minister Tsvangirai, who is expected back home Saturday, appealed to Australia to lift targeted sanctions imposed on Mugabe and his inner circle by the West in 2002 over charges of rights violations.

Organizing secretary, Nelson Chamisa, of the Tsvangirai MDC party said Mr. Mugabe’s attack was uncalled for considering Tsvangirai had gone out of his way to defend the president and call for the removal of restrictions.

Commentator Nkululeko Sibanda, a lecturer at the Huddersfield university in London, told VOA Mr. Mugabe's remarks lack political maturity.