Defiant Mugabe blasts “coalition of evil”

UNITED NATIONS — Zimbabwe’s President, Robert Mugabe, blasted wealthy countries for monopolizing power at the expense of the developing world, saying that for his country and others, “all things have not been equal.”

Mugabe told the UN General Assembly on Wednesday that

aid to developing nations had suffered a “significant and clearly calculated decline” in recent years and urged richer countries to substantially increase their assistance.

U.N. development goals adopted after the Millennium summit in 2000 call for governments to cut the number of people living in absolute poverty by half before 2015, but only a handful have met a U.N. target set 35 years ago to raise annual foreign aid spending to 0.7% of their economic output.

Mugabe also called for reform of the United Nations to give poor countries a bigger voice.

“It is important to ensure the existence of an inclusive process of decision- making in which developing countries can play a meaningful role,” he said in his speech on the opening day of the U.N. summit.

In a thinly veiled criticism of the U.S.-led war in Iraq, Mugabe said “the sovereignty and territorial integrity of small and weak countries have been violated by the mighty and powerful” in defiance of the U.N. and international rules, and accused rich nations of using humanitarian aid to interfere in the affairs of weaker states.

“The coalition to defy international law becomes an aggressor coalition. It becomes indeed a coalition of evil,” he said, calling on the international community to return to the drawing board to reform the United Nations.

Mugabe told world leaders that “the current skewed power structures in the world body cannot be condoned on any conceivable grounds of democracy.”

“Organs of the United Nations including the Security Council must be restructured to reflect the full will of nations great or small,” he said.

Mugabe’s government has allowed the seizure of 5,000 white-owned commercial farms in recent years, wrecking agricultural output and exports and causing widespread food shortages.

A UN report last July estimated that 700 000 people had been left homeless after the Zimbabwean government embarked on “Operation Murambatsvina” leading to the demolition of homes, flea markets and other buildings mostly in poor areas. The report said the exercise had compounded the country’s economic problems.

Mugabe blames U.S. and European Union sanctions – imposed for alleged human rights abuses – for putting the Zimbabwean economy into free fall. Inflation now hovers around 255% a year and 80% of the work force is idle.

“Our efforts have been seriously affected by recurring droughts and floods, HIV and AIDS and of course unilateral sanctions imposed on us by countries that do not wish us well,” he said.

He also defended his land policies, saying Zimbabwe had committed itself to “addressing extreme poverty and hunger by redistributing land to the majority of our citizens who have been condemned to conditions of squalor by years of colonialism and its vestiges.” — AP