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New British envoy appointed

Dumisani Muleya/Gift Phiri

BRITAIN has officially announced Dr Roderick Allen Pullen as its new ambassador to Zimbabwe after the departure of Sir Brian Donnelly last weekend.

Sir Brian had fierce run-ins with President Robert Mugabe’s embattled government during his three-year tenure.

London said Pullen would arrive in Zimbabwe next week to take over the hot seat from Sir Brian who had a turbulent stay in the crisis-ridden country.

This came as the British embassy in Harare dismissed the state-controlled Herald’s claims that Sir Brian “slipped” out of the country last weekend without bidding farewell to Mugabe.

“The embassy formally informed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in advance of the ambassador’s planned departure, and asked for the usual courtesies, which would normally include a valedictory call on the head of state, to be observed,” deputy head of mission Alison Blackburne said. “We received no response from the Foreign Affairs ministry.”

Pullen, former British High Commissioner to Ghana, is a veteran diplomat who has served in Nigeria, Kenya, France, Spain, Suva, and in the British Commonwealth Office.

Like his predecessor, Pullen appears headed for a stormy tenure after Mugabe declared two weeks ago he would intensify his anti-British campaign in the run-up to next year’s general election.

Mugabe told a Zanu PF youth congress two weeks ago that the next poll would be an “Anti-Blair” election. He alleged that British Prime Minister Tony Blair wanted to overthrow his regime and recolonise Zimbabwe.

Government clashed endlessly with Sir Brian, who was often credited with plotting the downfall of former Yugoslav dictator Slobodan Milosevic in 1999, accusing him of trying to effect a Belgrade-style “regime change” in the country.

Pullen’s mission could be further complicated by Britain’s current attempts to table the Zimbabwe crisis before the United Nations.

British Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Baroness Symons, said on Monday during a House of Lords debate on Zimbabwe that the “United Kingdom Government are considering taking the issue to the United Nations General Assembly”. Symons was responding to a question from Lord Howell.

l Meanwhile, Archbishop Pius Ncube has stepped up his criticism of South Africa President Thabo Mbeki and Blair for failing to stop Mugabe “evils “.

Ncube told journalists at a press conference in London on Wednesday that Mbeki “has been a disappointment” on the Zimbabwe question.

“He has been backing Mugabe, saying things will be all right … But possibly he is aware that if he takes a negative attitude he will have less space to assist Mugabe,” he said. “Unfortunately Mugabe has got Britain where he wants them … blaming everything on Blair.”

In another salvo of criticism aga-inst Harare, Callisto Madavo, the World Bank’s vice-president for Afri-ca, said Zimbabwe had been a “disaster” under Mugabe’s leadership.

“Zimbabwe is a disaster,” Madavo, a Zimbabwean, said on Tuesday. “I think one is not likely to see progress unless the political problem is resolved … by Mugabe leaving.”

But Madavo said pressure for change in Zimbabwe would have to come from within the country.

“We are only going to get progress if there is renewal from within Zimbabwe, which means Zimbabweans getting together and overcoming the situation that has been created. But we need a change,” Madavo said.

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