- The Washington Times - Monday, September 10, 2001

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — President Robert Mugabe said yesterday that he approves of a Commonwealth-backed deal to end his country's farm seizure crisis. But new violence in the north of the country was reported.

Under an agreement signed last week in Abuja, Nigeria, Zimbabwe pledged an immediate end to violence and farm invasions in return for British funding for orderly land reform.

Mr. Mugabe, who returned yesterday from a state visit to Libya, told reporters that he accepted the accord, but that it still needed the endorsement of his Cabinet and his party's senior policy-making body.

"I do not see these two authorities rejecting it really, because it confirms what we have been doing and affirms our position and enables Britain to act as a partner," he said.

"For the first time we speak the same language," he added. "It is a victory for us and for the farmers who need to be compensated."

Meanwhile, further violence on white-owned farms in the north of the country was reported.

Farmer representatives in the Chinhoyi-Mvurwi area, 100 miles north of Harare, cited a massive upsurge in land invasions since the accord was announced on Thursday.

The Commercial Farmers' Union said militants had occupied white-owned properties and begun building huts and cutting down trees for firewood.

A 70-year-old farmer and his family were besieged on their farm by a crowd of between 50 and 100 invaders, some armed with axes and clubs, said a female relative who asked not to be identified.

Police apparently refused to act against the invaders, who wanted the farmer to abandon his property immediately, the woman said. Mr. Mugabe has denied accusations that police ignore appeals for help from white farmers.

Eighteen months of violent land seizures have bought Zimbabwe's economy to its knees. Nine farmers have died in the violence.

Mr. Mugabe, who plans to fight presidential elections in April after 22 years in power, has maintained that Britain, Zimbabwe's former colonial master, must compensate 5,000 whites whose farms he wants to redistribute to black Zimbabweans.

Meanwhile local elections continued yesterday in Zimbabwe's second largest city, Bulawayo, where opposition members claimed massive ballot rigging by Mr. Mugabe's ruling party.


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