Mugabe rejects Ban’s UN envoy proposal


Harare : Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe rebuffed a proposal by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to send a UN envoy to the country, saying that “anything that smells of American and British influence will not be acceptable to us,” Zimbabwe’s Herald newspaper reported Wednesday.

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Speaking after a meeting with Mugabe Tuesday on the sidelines of the UN summit on hunger in Rome, Ban said he would send a special envoy to Zimbabwe to discuss ways the UN could support a fair presidential run-off election June 27.

Ban said he would send Haile Menkerios of Eritrea to Zimbabwe with Mugabe’s approval, a spokeswoman confirmed in New York.

Mugabe faces opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai in the run-off that was called for after neither candidate won an outright majority in the first round of voting March 29.

The MDC has called for the run-off to be opened up to scrutiny by Western and UN observers but the government has barred observers and journalists from “unfriendly” nations.

According to the state-controlled Herald, Mugabe told Ban he took “great exception to the use of the UN Secretary General by Britain and the US to further their interest” and that he would only support the UN giving technical assistance to the non-Western observers.

The Herald said Mugabe told Ban his comments on Zimbabwe “completely ignored the fact that Zimbabwe was bleeding under illegal sanctions” imposed by Britain, the European Union and the United States.

“Mr Secretary General, don’t be used by them. I plead, I plead, I plead. We want you, we respect you, we chose you,” Mugabe was quoted by the Herald as telling Ban, who has repeatedly expressed concern over the situation in Zimbabwe.

Mugabe Tuesday used a speech to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) summit in Rome to lash out at his critics, who said his presence at the meeting, given the widespread hunger caused by his populist policies in Zimbabwe, was an embarrassment.

The 84-year-old leader, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, blamed his country’s food shortages on the sanctions that target mainly ruling party top brass and again accused the West of trying to effect “illegal regime change.”

Human rights groups say Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party is responsible for most of the post-election violence that the MDC says has claimed the lives of at least 50 opposition supporters.

Mugabe was reported by the Herald to have drawn Ban’s attention to the deaths of two supporters of his Zanu-PF party.