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Mugabe marks birthday, lashes out at his critics

February 25, 2007|From Times Wire Services

GWERU, ZIMBABWE — President Robert Mugabe, facing mounting discontent at home, blamed his country's economic crisis on the European Union, and Britain in particular, during celebrations Saturday for his 83rd birthday.

Mugabe, who has been in power since independence from British colonial rule in 1980, also said that the main opposition group was a front for Britain. The group is opposing his plans to extend his term in office by two years.

Last week, the EU renewed targeted sanctions, including a travel ban and asset freezes on Mugabe and more than 100 of his top associates, to protest the southern African nation's poor human rights record and his dictatorial rule.

Critics accuse him of human rights violations and say his nationalist policies have plunged the economy into deep crisis.

Addressing thousands of supporters at a birthday celebration staged in a stadium in this central city by his ruling ZANU-PF party at a cost of more than $1 million, Mugabe said his government was working hard to turn around the economy.

But, he said, his plans were being sabotaged by those trying to overthrow him.

He said his government had the support of the people and that even if his rivals sought "foreign intervention, we are not going to fall."

The celebration came at the end of a week of rising tensions as authorities banned rallies across the capital, Harare, after skirmishes between police and opposition supporters last Sunday.

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