|Southern African leaders have come out strongly in support of Mugabe's controversial land reform program|
SADC leaders back Zim land grabs
OWN CORRESPONDENT AND REUTERS, Windhoek | Tuesday
SOUTHERN African leaders have come out strongly in support of Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe's controversial land reform program, saying Britain should "honour its obligations" and provide resources for land reform in the embattled country. Ending two-day talks on the region's simmering conflicts and tepid economic growth, the leaders of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) called on rich nations to write off foreign debt and expressed concern over unending civil wars in Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Slamming threatened US sanctions on Zimbabwe as ?punitive and unjust?, the SADC heads declared that the policy ?seeks to effect a just and equitable redistribution of land in a situation where 1% of the population owns over 70% of the best arable land.' 'We are disappointed by the partisan and biased manner in which a sector of the international media has misrepresented the land policy of the government of Zimbabwe,'' they said in a statement. ?We reiterate our acceptance of the urgent need to effect land redistribution in Zimbabwe to address land hunger and poverty affecting millions of black Zimbabweans,'' it added. The SADC leaders said they had appointed Presidents Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and Bakili Muluzi of Malawi to make representations to the British government on SADC's behalf for London to finance the land reform. The presidents also broke the silence on the killer disease AIDS and pledged to pool resources to fight the epidemic which poses the most serious threat to the security, stability and future of the SADC region. Around 11 million of SADC's 190 million population are infected with HIV/AIDS, statistics show, and the figure is rising. The heads of state also called a meeting in Lusaka on August 14 to discuss the war in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). DRC President Laurent Kabila stayed away from the summit amid efforts to persuade him to be more flexible in peace moves, but the communique declared that "the DRC peace process is still on track despite a number of setbacks." The leaders also took a strong stand against Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi, with the summit's final communique expressing concern at his "armed and criminal actions against the civilian population and the destruction of social and economic infrastructure."
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