Britain announced it was halting all export orders for arms and military equipment to Zimbabwe last night after President Robert Mugabe repeated his threat to seize half the country's white-owned land without compensation.
In his most defiant address yet, President Mugabe declared Britain his country's enemy and told whites they could leave. "They are free to leave and we may assist them by showing various ways to leave the territory," he said.
The further deterioration in relations with Britain's former colony came as sources revealed that intelligence reports to the Foreign Office in February indicated that Mr Mugabe faced a revolt within his own party and had ordered the destruction of the country's fledgling opposition movement.
The Government is now convinced that the forthcoming elections cannot be free and fair. Ministers are already privately warning that they will reject the results as rigged.
Mr Mugabe's speech caused alarm among Zimbabwe's whites and its beleaguered opposition. It came as the President launched the ruling Zanu-PF party's manifesto for elections for which he has still not named a date.
The Foreign Office announcement on the suspension of arms exports will have little practical effect. Zimbabwe is thought to have only two operational Hawk jets. But the supply of 450 Land Rovers to the Zimbabwean police has been halted, and the ban will extend to the export of small arms, radios, hunting rifles and radar spares.