France says Zimbabwe denies visas to aid workers

PARIS, (Reuters) – Zimbabwe has denied visas to a French team of specialists standing by to help stem a cholera outbreak in the African country, the French foreign ministry said on Thursday.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, under pressure from Western leaders to resign, said on Thursday his government had stopped the epidemic, which he said Western governments were using as an excuse to try to invade the country and oust him.

"Contrary to what Mr Mugabe says, the cholera epidemic is not under control… France strongly regrets this decision and calls on Zimbabwe’s authorities to allow aid to reach the population," ministry spokesman Frederic Desagneaux said.

The team of six includes three specialists from the French foreign ministry’s crisis centre, two epidemiologists, and a water treatment expert.

International health organisations say the epidemic, which has already killed at least 800 people, is still not under control. The United Nations says some 16,000 people are already infected, and warned that the water-born disease could infect 60,000 if not treated properly.