Mugabe rejects Western pressure to quit

Despite rampant inflation, a cholera epidemic and crumbling infrastructure, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe rejected calls from world leaders, including Nicolas Sarkozy and George W. Bush, to stand aside.


AFP - President Robert Mugabe on Tuesday rejected mounting Western pressure for him to resign, even as his health minister called for more international aid to battle a deadly cholera epidemic.

European nations Monday tightened their sanctions on Mugabe and his inner circle, as French President Nicolas Sarkozy joined the growing chorus calling for the 84-year-old to step down.

Mugabe's spokesman George Charamba accused Western countries of seeking to bring Zimbabwe before the UN Security Council by claiming that a cholera epidemic and food shortages had incapacitated his government.

"The British and the Americans are dead set on bringing Zimbabwe back to the UN Security Council," he said in the government mouthpiece Herald newspaper.

"They are also dead set on ensuring that there is an invasion of Zimbabwe but without themselves carrying it out. In those circumstances, they will stop at nothing," he said.

"We would not be surprised if they spring a 'mission' involving the UN," he added.

Former colonial power Britain has led the international calls for Mugabe to resign after a 28-year rule that has left the country's economy in shambles amid a political deadlock after controversial elections earlier this year.

The United States has also said Mugabe should go, but most of Zimbabwe's neighbours have remained silent or backed floundering negotiations aimed at forming a unity government.

South Africa's ruling party boss Jacob Zuma and Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba said Tuesday that they still backed the regional effort to mediate a power-sharing deal in Zimbabwe.

Former South African president Thabo Mbeki brokered an agreement for Mugabe to form a unity government with the opposition in September, but the deal has faltered over disputes about how to divide control of powerful ministries.

Among Zimbabwe's neighbours, only Botswana has taken a tough line against Mugabe -- even suggesting that the region cut off fuel shipments to Zimbabwe to force him from power.

The cholera epidemic has raised alarms across southern Africa, with some tests detecting the disease in the waters of the Limpopo river, which flows across the region.

The World Health Organisation warned Tuesday that the disease could hit 60,000 people in the coming weeks, echoing an earlier estimate by the UN children's fund UNICEF.

"Zimbabwe is grappling with a cholera crisis of unprecedented levels," UNICEF said, saying it needed 17.5 million dollars (13.6 million euros) to fight the disease.

"Schools and hospitals are closing, patients cannot access health care, teachers, nurses and doctors are not able to come to work," it said.

Nearly 600 people have died in Zimbabwe with nearly 14,000 cases detected, and hundreds of patients have crossed the border searching for treatment in South Africa, where at least eight have died.

Zimbabwe has declared a national emergency and appealed for international aid to fight the disease.

Health Minister David Parirenyatwa praised donors and non-governmental organisations for giving drugs and supplies, but said more help was still needed.

"Donors and NGOs have also responded positively although the assistance is not enough and we still need more," he said in the Herald.

The country also faces crippling shortages of food, with nearly half the population expected to need emergency aid next month, according to the United Nations.

The once-vibrant economy has been shrinking for nearly a decade, and is now hammered by the world's highest inflation, last estimated at 231 million percent in July.

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