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Mugabe Rails Against Critics

September 8, 2000

UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe on Friday railed against critics of his land reform plan and said he will not back down from a campaign to take away farms from descendants of white British colonialists and give them to impoverished blacks.

``Our conscience is clear. We will not go back. We shall continue to effect economic and social justice for all our people without fear or favor,″ he said in a speech to the U.N. Millennium Summit of world leaders.

Mugabe has come under fire for his land reform plan and for supporting violent mobs that have occupied more than 1,600 white-owned farms since February. The unrest has been led by veterans of the war that ended white rule in 1980.

Mugabe used the international forum to defend his policies and blast critics.

About 4,000 whites own one-third of the fertile farmland, where 2 million farm workers and their family members live. About 7.5 million people live on the other two-thirds.

``We have sought to redress this inequity through a fast track land reform and resettlement program,″ he said.

``My country, my government, my party and my person are labeled ‘land grabbers’, demonized, reviled and threatened with sanctions in the face of accusations of reverse-racism,″ he told the General Assembly.

The U.S. Senate is considering a bill to force Zimbabwe to pay off its debt to the United States and suspend U.S. aid unless law and order is restored and property that was held before January is returned.

On Thursday, addressing a mostly black audience of nearly 1,000 at Harlem’s Mount Olivet Baptist Church, Mugabe said that because blacks received no payment for their land, neither will whites.

``We will die clinging to our land,″ he said. ``We shall take the land and pay no compensation.″

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