The Herald (Harare)

23 November 2007

Zimbabwe: Our Human Rights Record Better Than Australia's - President

Harare — President Mugabe yesterday told incoming Australian ambassador Mr Charles John Hodgson that Zimbabwe has a much better human rights record than his country.

Officials said Cde Mugabe roasted Mr Hodgson on why Australia gets involved in the bilateral dispute between Zimbabwe and Britain. According to the officials, Cde Mugabe said Australia makes a lot of noise about Zimbabwe's human rights record yet Harare was far ahead of Canberra in upholding human rights given the way Aborigines are treated in Australia.

The Aborigines are the indigenous Australians but are treated as second class citizens. President Mugabe made the comments in talks with Mr Hodgson after he had presented his credentials to him at State House. Cde Mugabe told the Australian diplomat that his country has taken a hostile stance against Zimbabwe in the name of pleasing Britain, the officials said.

Speaking to journalists after meeting the President, Mr Hodgson said Cde Mugabe gave him his views "on our relations (between Zimbabwe and Australia) and I found them to be very useful".

Asked what he would do to improve the relations he, said:

"Beyond that, I can't comment further. Diplomacy has to be conducted between governments and not through news media." The next to present his credentials was new United States ambassador Mr James Macgee, who said he "was looking forward to working with the Government and people of Zimbabwe".

Mr Mcgee replaces Mr Christopher Dell, who had to be warned on a number of times by Zimbabwean authorities against his undiplomatic conduct and meddling in the internal affairs of Zimbabwe. The new US ambassador said he would "be working very closely with the Government of Zimbabwe", when asked what he would do to improve strained relations between Harare and Washington.

Following the confirmation of his appointment, Mr Mcgee told the US Senate that he would continue from where Mr Dell left in pursuing the regime change agenda in Zimbabwe, citing Swaziland and Madagascar where he said he worked with "pro-democracy groups and the civil society".

However, Zimbabwe is different in that it unequivocally detests meddling in its internal affairs by foreigners. Incoming Russian ambassador Mr Sergey Kryukov said his country was satisfied with the level of political co-operation it has with Zimbabwe. This has seen the two countries share same views in the United Nations and other international forums, which Mr Kryukov said "contributes to a more secure and just world order". He said efforts should now shift to economic co-operation and implementation of agreed deals. Last to present his credentials was Mr Luis Cabrera of Mexico, who said his country wished to have a strong presence in Africa and Zimbabwe plays a great role in that quest.

Mr Cabrera will be based in South Africa and will cover Zimbabwe from there.

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