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20 Dec 2001 15:17 UTC
Britain has called on Commonwealth nations to take action against the Zimbabwe government for its attacks on white farmers, the news media, and political opponents.
British Foreign Minister Jack Straw spoke in a radio interview Thursday, saying he wants to see more pressure applied to Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe to end political violence in his nation. Mr. Straw said President Mugabe has to understand that the international community is now watching what is happening in Zimbabwe.
Mr. Straw spoke prior to a meeting of an eight-nation Commonwealth watchdog committee, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group in London. The group is considering taking the first steps towards suspending Zimbabwe from the 54-member Commonwealth. The organization is made up of Britain and its former colonies.
The London-based human rights group Amnesty International also has called on the Commonwealth to take action against Zimbabwe. The group cites assaults and harassment of opposition party members and fears violence in the nation will only get worse leading up to the presidential elections in March.
The moves by Britain and Amnesty come as the Zimbabwe government is pushing two bills through the legislature that critics say will sharply curtail journalistic freedoms and political expression.
One bill would ban any political gathering declared unlawful by the government. Under the measure, criticism of the government would be a criminal offense. Another bill would set up a licensing authority requiring all journalists working in the country to be citizens. At least 31 people have died in Zimbabwe since March of 2000 when ruling party militants began a violent campaign of seizing white-owned land for resettlement by poor blacks.
Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters
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