But UN spokeswoman Tafadzwa Mumba refused to comment on whether special envoy Anna Tibaijuka had been given the appointment she was seeking with President Robert Mugabe on Tuesday.


For protocol reasons, Tibaijuka was apparently waiting to see the president before visiting shantytowns and markets destroyed under his campaign.

 

Since the campaign was launched 19 May, police have torched and bulldozed tens of thousands of shacks, street stalls and, at a time of acute food shortages, the vegetable gardens planted by the urban poor.

There was no immediate word from Mugabe's office. Mugabe says he is trying to fight crime, maintain health standards and restore order in Zimbabwe's cities.

Criticism

But the opposition, which has its strongholds among the urban poor, says the blitz is intended to punish its supporters, who voted against the government in recent parliamentary elections.

International activists and Western governments have called the campaign a violation of human rights while church leaders, lawyers and doctors in Zimbabwe have condemned it as a cruel attack on the poor.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan sent Tibaijuka, the Tanzanian head of UN Habitat, after UN staff estimated at least 1.5 million people had been affected by the campaign.

Zimbabwean police say only 120,000 have been affected.

Zimbabweans are struggling to make ends meet with inflation running near 150% and unemployment hovering around 80%.