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S.Africa's Mbeki Decries 'Force-Fed' Democracy *LINK*

Monday, April 7, 2003; 11:23 AM

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African President Thabo Mbeki told Africans on Monday that they could be the next victims of global bullying after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

"The prospect facing the people of Iraq should serve as sufficient warning that in future we too might have others descend on us, guns in hand to force-feed us (with democracy)," Mbeki said.

"If the United Nations does not matter...why should we, the little countries of Africa...think that we matter and will not be punished if we get out of line?" he said in remarks prepared for a conference on elections, democracy and governance.

South Africa has opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and urged the United States and Britain to use the United Nations to deal with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Mbeki, South Africa's second elected president since the end of apartheid in 1994, said there was no one-size-fits-all model of democracy.

"Great Britain does not limit the period during which a person may hold the position of Prime Minister, to say nothing about the hereditary position of Head of State," he said.

Britain's head of state is a monarch, who is not elected.

Many African countries now limit the number of presidential mandates one person can have although others still allow presidents to stay in office for 20 years or more.

Mbeki noted that Britain did not have an independent electoral commission or independent human rights commission.

"I have never heard of international observers visiting the United Kingdom verifying whether any British election was free and fair," he said.

His remarks echoed those of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, condemned by many Western nations for what they said was his rigged victory in elections last year.

When the U.S. presidential election hung on a knife-edge in 2001, Mugabe suggested sending in Zimbabwean observers as Western nations had demanded for Zimbabwe's own elections.

Mbeki said on Monday he believed that Britain was seen correctly as a democratic country.

2003 Reuters

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