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Mugabe wants it both ways

President Robert
Harare, Zimbabwe — MININGREVIEW.COM — 10 September 2010 – The government of Zimbabwe wants normal ties with the Western powers critical of its policies, but still insists that it will press ahead with its plan to hand over control of foreign companies “’ including mines “’ to local blacks.

President Robert Mugabe told Reuters in an interview here that his government was waiting for positive movement from the United States and the European Union to mend ties soured over the last decade by rows over the seizures of white-owned farms for landless blacks and charges of rights abuses and election fraud.

“We never refuse to talk to anybody,” he said when asked whether he was prepared to talk to Washington and Brussels. “But what I don’t understand about the Europeans and the Americans is their negative attitude.”

Talks to improve ties with the EU have stalled over slow political reforms in Harare while U.S. President Barack Obama said last month he was heartbroken by Zimbabwe’s decline.

Mugabe — who last month told Western powers to go "to hell" over sanctions imposed on his ZANU-PF party — said on Thursday: “They have imposed unjustified and illegal sanctions on us. The sanctions are comparable to the military aggression in Iraq.”

The 86-year-old leader said he hoped Obama and new British Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg would move to mend ties between Harare and the West.

“We are waiting to see what Obama, Cameron and Clegg will do -in regard to our situation and our relations,” Mugabe said. “If they decide the relations should remain what they are, then we will know that they too are aggressors and not different from their predecessors, but we are giving them a chance.”

Although the unity government has stabilised the economy and Zimbabwe registered its first growth in a decade last year, it has struggled to attract foreign aid and investment because of Mugabe’s policies.

Mugabe told Reuters the government would proceed with its plan for local blacks to acquire 51% shares in foreign-owned firms, including mines and banks, despite criticism that it will hurt investment flows into the country.