New Zimbabwe government calls on Britain to pay for lost farms

HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe's new power-sharing leadership called on former colonial power Britain on Monday to accept responsibility for compensating farmers who lost their land during the country's land reform process.

President Robert Mugabe and opposition leaders Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara signed a deal on Monday to end a political crisis exacerbated by elections earlier this year.

The deal, under which Mugabe relinquishes some of his powers to rivals he brands stooges of the West, proposes that the parties try to secure international finance to pay compensation to farmers.

"The parties hereby call upon the United Kingdom government to accept the primary responsibility to pay compensation for land acquired from former landowners for resettlement," the agreement stated.

Mugabe’s government began seizing white-owned commercial farms in 2000 to distribute to blacks, a policy critics say ruined the agriculture sector.

Zimbabwe’s government has in the past accused Britain of reneging on an agreement to compensate farmers who lost their land during reforms.

The power-sharing deal called for a "comprehensive, transparent and non-partisan" land audit to ensure individuals did not own too many farms.

Critics say Mugabe’s ministers and supporters took control of farms that were initially meant to be given to landless blacks.