Zimbabwe urges EU to tell Brown to "shut up" on rights

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LISBON, Oct 15 (Reuters) The European Union should tell British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to ''shut up'' on democracy and human rights in Zimbabwe ahead of an Africa-EU summit in December, Zimbabwe's information minister said today.

Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu told Portuguese radio station Renascenca that Brown had no right to lecture Zimbabwe when he himself was ''running away'' with power by taking over from Tony Blair without an election.

''Other EU countries should tell Gordon Brown to shut up,'' Ndlovu told the radio station. ''Gordon Brown is not even qualified to talk to us on human rights and as you can see he failed his own country's internal democracy in Britain.'' EU president Portugal is hosting the first summit of EU and African leaders in seven years in December but Brown has said he will not attend if Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe goes.

Mugabe faces a travel ban in Europe.

The African Union supports Mugabe in attending the summit and Ndlovu said the the issue was a closed chapter. ''Noone can stand between Portugal and inviting (all) heads of state from the African Union and European Union,'' he said.

A summit between the African Union and EU failed in 2003 after Britain and other EU states -- who accuse Mugabe of rights abuses -- refused to attend if Mugabe did. Portugal has said it will not discriminate in who it invites but has yet to send the invitations.

Ndlovu said Europe had no right to accuse Zimbabwe of human rights abuses. ''European countries are not clean, they are not clean at all,'' he said.

''Human rights should be discussed also in the European Union, some of the members of the European Union are the worst offenders of human rights; why particularly Zimbabwe?'' he said.

He said that during the time when Zimbabwe won its independence from colonial power Britain, people were imprisoned and land was taken away.

''Where were all these countries (then) who are in the EU, who are clamouring for human rights?'' he said.

Critics accuse Mugabe of running down one of Africa's most promising economies, which now has the highest inflation rate in the world at 6,600 per cent and persistent food shortages.

Mugabe, who is 83 and has been in power since independence from Britain in 1980, accuses western countries of sabotaging the economy as punishment for his seizure of white-owned farms to resettle landless blacks.


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