Thu, Jul 28, 2005 - Page 5 News List

China greets Mugabe with open arms

`OLD FRIEND' China feted Zimbabwe's leader Robert Mugabe, who is not welcome in the US or EU, and agreed to supply his nation with items such as computers and planes

AFP , BEIJING

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe yesterday revelled in his red carpet welcome by China, as other countries pressed for a UN Security Council meeting on his slum demolition drive.

Mugabe is on a six-day visit to China and has been warmly greeted as "an old friend" by President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), head of one of the few countries to embrace the 81-year-old autocrat who is banned from traveling in the EU and US.

At the same time, Britain was urging a Security Council meeting on his slum demolition campaign as UN chief Kofi Annan ruled out a visit there until Harare ended its shantytown evictions and allowed humanitarian aid in.

Council members said Harare's campaign of razing shantytowns had left 700,000 Zimbabweans homeless and destitute and affected a further 2.4 million, but there was no consensus on holding formal consultations.

Diplomats said China, which has publicly backed his drive to demolish illegal housing in his homeland, was one of the countries who expressed reluctance to have a formal debate on the issue.

In Beijing yesterday, Mugabe met parliamentary chief Wu Bangguo (吳邦國), who voiced support for Zimbabwe's land reform programs on a visit to Harare last year.

Wu said yesterday that his visit and talks with Mugabe last November had left him with "a deep impression," and he embraced the frail-looking Zimbabwe leader.

"May I begin by also expressing my gratitude and appreciation for the very warm welcome that we have had as a team since our arrival and for the excellent facilities laid at our disposal," Mugabe told Wu.

During talks, the two sides have signed agreements covering economic and technical cooperation, including the supply of computer equipment.

A memorandum of understanding was also penned between China's Ministry of Justice and Zimbabwe's Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, although no details were given.

The China Daily said a deal was also struck for the export of Chinese-made short-haul MA60 planes while loan financing was agreed for Zimbabwe's Hwange Power Station.

"We have had excellent discussions, excellent in the sense that what were still ideas formulated in a draft form in some cases have now become real agreements," Mugabe said. "We have appended our signatures to them and we are very, very happy that we have done this to cement our relations with a great friend, historical friend, brotherly friend, and that is the People's Republic of China."

In another sign of their friendship, Mugabe, a former teacher, was awarded an honorary professorship by Beijing's Foreign Affairs University.

Observers have said his main purpose in visiting Beijing was to plead for oil and loans to aid his state's failing economy, although no details have been released on any agreements.

Zimbabwe needs hard currency to repay loans to the International Monetary Fund. It also suffers from shortages of fuel and food.

Mugabe is aiming to fulfill his "Look East" policy of fostering better relations with Asian nations following sanctions and isolation from other parts of the world.

He was to meet with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) later yesterday.

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