Robert Mugabe urges West to lift sanctions

Just days after reaching a power-sharing deal with his opposition rivals at home, Mugabe — in a typically fiery speech at the United Nations — accused Washington and London of being "perpetrators of genocide" for their role in the Iraq war.

"What insanity is this that has afflicted some world leaders?" he asked, referring to earlier failed efforts to get the U.N. Security Council to slap sanctions on Zimbabwe.

Mugabe, who has governed since Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain in 1980, spoke amid efforts at home to break a deadlock over the division of cabinet posts under the accord reached with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

"My party, ZANU-PF, will abide by the spirit and letter of the agreement to which we have appended our signature," he told the annual General Assembly gathering of world leaders.

Millions of Zimbabweans hope the new political arrangement will be the first step towards rescuing a nation shattered by economic collapse. But Washington has warned that it has a new batch of sanctions ready if Mugabe reneges on his promises.

Mugabe, 84, one of Africa’s most stridently anti-Western leaders, used his address for a blistering attack on his international foes, saying their sanctions had contributed to the "untold suffering" of his people.

"I would therefore like to appeal to those members of the international community who have imposed illegal sanctions against Zimbabwe to lift them so that my country can focus, undisturbed, on its economic turnaround program," he said.

Mugabe accused Western powers of a "vindictive approach" he said was marked by "self-righteous finger-pointing" and "double standards" meant to coerce smaller, weaker countries.

He suggested that the United States and Britain, which invaded Iraq in 2003 without explicit U.N. approval, should be made to pay a price for their actions.

"Those who falsely accuse us of these violations are themselves international perpetrators of genocide, acts of aggression and mass destruction," he said. "The masses of innocent men, women and children who have perished in their thousands in Iraq surely demand retribution and vengeance."


U.S. President George W. Bush, who branded Mugabe’s government "tyrannical" in his U.N. speech last year, made no mention of Zimbabwe in his address on Tuesday. But Washington has remained one of Mugabe’s harshest critics.

The deal with Tsvangirai and the head of a breakaway opposition faction followed weeks of tense negotiations to end a political crisis compounded by the veteran leader’s disputed and unopposed re-election in a widely condemned vote in June.

Under the deal, Mugabe retains the presidency and chairs the cabinet while Tsvangirai becomes prime minister, chairing a council of ministers supervising the cabinet.

Mugabe, interviewed by, said he was firm in that his party’s allocation of cabinet portfolios must include four key ministries, which he described as "the security ones plus foreign affairs and local government."

He insisted he would remain on top in the new governing arrangement. "I am at the top as the constitution makes me head of state and head of government," he said.