Give up farms or we declare war, Mugabe tells whites

Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean President, threatened war against white farmers yesterday if they refused to surrender their farms voluntarily.

A day after parliament rubber-stamped his plan to seize thousands of acres of white-owned land without compensation, a defiant Mr Mugabe launched his campaign for re-election. He declared the constitutional amendment, which holds Britain liable for buying out the whites, a "victory over colonialism". Those who want to leave the country, he said "are free to go".

He told a rally of cheering supporters:"If they [the farmers] continue to resist, we are ready for war. The white man has not changed. I appeal for him or her to repent."

Amid rising political tension which has led to at least five deaths, he said he would do nothing to evict black squatters from the 700 white-owned farms they have invaded. "We are going to share the farms. We are all equal. We all have to share equally," he told supporters. "Now that we have our land, we will call this period the period of new development."

In London, the Foreign Office said Mr Mugabe's belligerence was "clearly worrying - this kind of rhetoric does not help".