Zimbabwe accuses UK of plotting to kill Mugabe-paper

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HARARE, Nov 18 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's government today accused former colonial ruler Britain of plotting to invade the southern African state and to kill President Robert Mugabe and some of his associates.

Mugabe's spokesman, George Charamba, told the official Sunday Mail newspaper that Harare was ''well aware'' that former British prime minister Tony Blair had considered plans for a military invasion of Zimbabwe, struggling with a deep crisis many blame on Mugabe's policies.

Reacting to a report in Britain's Independent newspaper last week that Blair had discussed the plan with former British armed forces chief General Lord Charles Guthrie, Charamba told the Sunday Mail that ''the idea had not been abandoned''.

''The (Zimbabwe) government was aware of the plans and the president made reference to the British's sinister motives on several occasions,'' he said.

''A defence plan had been operationalised and, in fact, it is still in operation.'' ''We were also aware that short of a full-fledged invasion, the British were and are still contemplating the elimination of our political leadership through a number of assassinations,'' Charamba added.

Charamba was not available for further comment today.

In the article entitled ''Zim prepared for British invasion,'' the Sunday Mail quoted Charamba as saying that Blair was forced to shelve the invasion plan on the advice of former members of the British Military Advisory Training Team who worked in Zimbabwe in the 1980s and 1990s and said Mugabe had ''a very capable army''.

Charamba also suggested that Blair abandoned the plan after failing to win unequivocal support from the United States, although Britain feels a historical obligation to protect the interests of Zimbabwean whites, who are mostly of British origin.

''The invasion of Zimbabwe without concrete US support was unthinkable for Britain,'' he said.

London has repeatedly rejected accusations that it is interfering in Zimbabwean politics and wants to overthrow the 83-year-old Mugabe over his seizure and redistribution of white-owned farms to blacks.

But Britain and other Western powers say Mugabe is guilty of gross human rights abuses and of running down one of Africa's most promising economies.

In turn, Mugabe -- in power since independence in 1980 -- blames the collapse of Zimbabwe's once thriving economy on Western sabotage.

REUTERS SZ RN1739

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