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Harare's concerns genuine, says envoy
Posted: Thursday, December 5, 2002

Diplomatic Reporter,

INCOMING Dutch ambassador to Zimbabwe Dr Johannes Heinsbroek yesterday said Harare has genuine concerns over its differences with the European Union.

Dr Heinsbroek was speaking in a meeting with President Mugabe at State House after presenting his credentials.

Sources who attended the meeting said the ambassador was responding to Cde Mugabe who had wondered how Netherlands could be dragged into the fight between Zimbabwe and her former colonial master Britain.

Netherlands and the rest of the European Union have ganged up against Zimbabwe and imposed sanctions at the instigation of Britain.

Britain has been campaigning for Harare's isolation because of the Government's resolve to correct colonial imbalances by redistributing land, which was forcibly grabbed from locals by white settlers, mostly British descendants.

According to the sources, President Mugabe noted that relations between Netherlands and Zimbabwe were chequered saying it was difficult to explain the strain in ties between the two countries.

"I don't know how the Netherlands would want us to relate? But not through the medium of Britain.

"Where have we gone wrong? Our problem with the United Kingdom is clear, they are our former colonial master.

"We do not understand how the Netherlands could be dragged into a fight that is British, pretending there are issues of human rights and good governance. I don't know . . . ," the sources quoted President Mugabe as having told Dr Heinsbroek.

In response, the sources said, Dr Heinsbroek said it was important that Zimbabwe and Netherlands engaged in talks to restore good relations.

He pledged to work towards improving relations between the two countries.

"Zimbabwe has genuine concerns and Europe also has her own concerns and we just have to talk. It is important that we have to talk.

"We must prevent an exchange of monologues. We can start with preparatory talks so we can restore our relations," the sources quoted Dr Heinsbroek saying.

Speaking to journalists after the meeting, Dr Heinsbroek said it was important for Zimbabwe and Europe to talk noting that both sides had concerns, which should be addressed.

Cde Mugabe also said relations between the two countries could improve.

"Things cannot be worsened for all time. Bilateral relations have to improve at some time."

The sources added that Cde Mugabe told the Dutch ambassador that there was no perfect democracy in the world.

He said the Dutch had a monarch while Zimbabwe had its own system of governance and wondered why Netherlands wanted to change Harare's system.

Cde Mugabe said even the Lancaster House constitution that the British helped craft at Zimbabwe's independence was not perfect.

He told Dr Heinsbroek that British Prime Minister Mr Tony Blair thinks he can rule Zimbabwe but Harare would resist any attempts to undermine its sovereignty.

"Even if Mugabe goes there will be people who will take over and resist any attempt to put authority on our sovereignty," the President reportedly said.

He said Zimbabwe respected the sovereignty of Europe and it expected the same of Europe.

"The days of Machiavellian are gone and countries wanted to be sovereign and democratic. I am supposed to be under sanctions… whatever that means in the eyes of Europe. But we are in year 2002. Are we that backward?"

Three other new ambassadors - Mr Tsaneshiye Iyama of Japan, Archbishop Joseph Edward Adams of the Vatican and Mauritian High Commissioner Mr John Dacruz - also presented their credentials to Cde Mugabe.

United Nations Secretary General Mr Kofi Annan's special envoy for HIV/Aids, Mr Stephen Lewis, also met Cde Mugabe to discuss the effects of the pandemic in Zimbabwe and how the country was fighting the scourge.

Mr Lewis is on a six-nation tour of Southern Africa to assess the HIV/Aids situation in relation to the drought gripping the region.

He said their talks also touched on how the UN could help the countries procure anti-retroviral drugs.

Mr Lewis said he was gratified that the Government was reconsidering plans, announced in the 2003 national budget, to gradually scrap the Aids levy.

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