Mugabe urges polls to end power-sharing

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe repeated Saturday calls for elections to end the power-sharing government and vowed to punish companies from countries that imposed sanctions on him and his allies.\r\n

"The position of our party is we want to get to elections as soon as possible," Mugabe told thousands of people at rally to celebrate his 87th birthday.

"If the others are there to drag the process, we will get out of the process. This year we must have a draft constitution, then a referendum and after the referendum, we must have elections."

Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party wants elections to choose a successor to the tense power-sharing government formed nearly two years ago with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Birthday celebrations for the man who has run Zimbabwe since 1980 were attended by around 5,000 members of his party, schoolchildren and youth representatives from Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa and Namibia.

Bands and choirs sang his praises in a packed a conference hall at a hotel in downtown Harare where he received various gifts including cattle, furniture and five birthday cakes.

In his speech, Mugabe also again vowed to punish Western companies from countries that have imposed sanctions on him and his allies over rights violations.

"Sanctions that continue to be imposed on us … must now be sanctions by us against enterprises, companies in Zimbabwe that belong to those countries that have imposed sanctions on us.

"We must look at companies that belong members of the EU, the British, the Americans, the Dutch. The Germans are more or less wanting the sanctions to go.

"We will do an inventory. That inventory must show which companies are American, British, Dutch," he said.

Mugabe’s calls came ahead of the launch of a campaign by his party against the sanctions imposed by the European Union and the United States.

Earlier this month, the EU removed some of Mugabe allies from the list of people under sanctions.