Mugabe threatens to expel British diplomat

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The Independent Online

President Robert Mugabe last night threatened to expel the British high commissioner to Zimbabwe, accusing the diplomat of sponsoring opposition protests aimed at forcing him from office.

It was the second such threat against the high commissioner, Brian Donnelly, since Saturday, when Mr Mugabe also accused the American ambassador to Zimbabwe of fomenting dissent.

"We know the British have been behind it," Mr Mugabe told supporters. "They are giving them money, we know that. That's why I warn Donnelly, if he continues doing it, we will kick him out of this country,"

The Foreign Office in London denied funding the opposition protests but declined to comment on the threat to expel Mr Donnelly. "We do, however, support the principles of democracy and the right of the citizens of Zimbabwe to demonstrate and express their views peacefully," a spokeswoman said last night.

Mr Mugabe has repeatedly threatened Mr Donnelly, who was previously posted to Belgrade. The Zimbabwean President claims that the British diplomat was planted by Tony Blair to sponsor a Milosevic-style overthrow of his regime.

Mr Donnelly has been followed by Mugabe agents and is obliged to inform the Foreign Ministry when the high commission's diplomats leave the country - an order which also applies to the US embassy.

The Zimbabwe government has cracked down on the opposition since last week's national strike, which was crushed by a massive show of force.

The main opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, has been arrested on new treason charges and appeared in court again yesterday to seek bail. His lawyer, George Bizos, accused the government of attempting to silence the opposition by keeping the head of the Movement for Democratic Change in jail. He said the government was "playing fast and loose" with the law.