ROME — Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe yesterday railed against President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, calling them “international terrorists” bent on world domination like Adolf Hitler.
Mr. Mugabe departed from his text at a ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to accuse Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair of illegally invading Iraq and looking to unseat governments elsewhere.
“Must we allow these men, the two unholy men of our millennium, who, in the same way as Hitler and Mussolini formed [an] unholy alliance, formed an alliance to attack an innocent country?” he asked rhetorically.
“The voice of Mr. Bush and the voice of Mr. Blair can’t decide who shall rule in Zimbabwe, who shall rule in Africa, who shall rule in Asia, who shall rule in Venezuela, who shall rule in Iran, who shall rule in Iraq,” he said.
Mr. Mugabe accused Britain and the United States of working to unseat him because of his forcible redistribution of white-owned farms among blacks, helping plunge his country into its worst economic crisis since independence from Britain in 1980.
Regime critics in Zimbabwe and abroad say Mr. Mugabe’s land policies have turned what was the breadbasket of southern Africa into a country facing mass shortages at home.
Aid groups estimate 5 million of Zimbabwe’s roughly 12 million people may need food aid this year.
Some FAO delegates applauded several times during Mr. Mugabe’s fiery speech yesterday.
But U.S. Ambassador Tony Hall, who protested Mr. Mugabe’s presence at the celebrations, said it was “very unfortunate” that the Zimbabwean leader had politicized an event that was supposed to draw attention to world hunger.
“I think he chews up his own people and spits them out,” said Mr. Hall, who visited Zimbabwe in August. “He has taken a perfectly good country and ruined it.”
The European Union slapped a travel ban on 81-year-old Mr. Mugabe after accusations of vote rigging in parliamentary elections in 2000 and in the president’s re-election two years later. But he is allowed to visit EU countries to attend U.N.-sponsored events.
Relations between the United States and Zimbabwe also have soured in recent years, with the Bush administration accusing Mr. Mugabe’s government of human rights abuses and election rigging.
U.S. officials said last month that Washington was preparing to expand sanctions on Mr. Mugabe, members of his government and their families.
Mr. Mugabe attacked Mr. Hall as an “agent of imperialism” and then thanked FAO Secretary-General Jacques Diouf for inviting him despite the U.S. protest.
Mr. Mugabe’s remark about Hitler drew an immediate rebuke from Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the New York-based Anti-Defamation League.