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‘Critical point’

The outgoing U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe fears that inflation will soon hit 1.5 million percent because of the ruinous economic policies of President Robert Mugabe, who also may be facing a rebellion from within his own political party.

“By carrying out disastrous economic policies, the Mugabe government is committing regime change upon itself,” Ambassador Christopher Dellsaid in an interview with Britain’s Guardian newspaper.

Mr. Dell noted that the arrests earlier this month of six men, including a retired senior army officer and an army private, expose cracks in Mr. Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front. The army had been fiercely loyal to the southern African strongman.

“I don’t believe it was a real coup plot. I think it shows one side of ZANU-PF plotting against the other,” said Mr. Dell, who is ending his tenure after three years as ambassador there.

“The bitter factional infighting is now dragging in the military. That cannot be good news for Mugabe.”

Inflation stands at a staggering 4,500 percent a year, but many shop owners told the Guardian that the real figure is more like 11,000 percent. Mr. Dell thinks both figures wildly underestimate the situation.

“I believe inflation will hit 1.5 million percent by the end of 2007, if not before,” he said. “I know that sounds stratospheric, but, looking at the way things are going, I believe it is a modest forecast.”

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Today

* President Toomas Ilves of Estonia, who meets with President Bush and visits the Victims of Communism Memorial. Tomorrow, he meets with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and congressional leaders. He addresses the Center for Strategic and International Studies at noon Wednesday.

* Culture Minister Edwin Poots of Northern Ireland and Mark Thompson of the Ulster Scots Agency. They attend ceremonies at the Smithsonian Institution’s Folklife Festival, which includes Northern Ireland as a featured exhibit.

Tomorrow

* Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere of Norway, who delivers the keynote address at a nuclear nonproliferation conference hosted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Jos Goldemberg of the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, Mustafa Kibaroglu of Bilkent University in Turkey, Tatsujiro Suzuki of the University of Tokyo, and William Walker of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland participate in panel discussions.

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