Row erupts over Straw's handshake with Mugabe

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The Independent Online

The Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, was criticised last night for shaking hands with President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, whose human rights record has been condemned by Britain as appalling.

Asked why he had greeted President Mugabe, whose last election victory he had described as a "tragedy" for the people of Zimbabwe, Mr Straw said he failed to recognise him because it was too dark.

The meeting, filmed by BBC2's Newsnight, took place in New York last week at a reception for the South African President, Thabo Mbeki.

It came just after President Mugabe had attacked Tony Blair and George Bush at the United Nations for "raining bombs and hellfire on innocent Iraqis, purportedly in the name of democracy".

Zimbabwe opposition figures said Mr Straw's handshake sent the "wrong signals".