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Africa
Harare deplores UN expert's visit
Special rapporteur who was deported is accused by foreign minister of 'provocation'.
Last Modified: 30 Oct 2009 14:09 GMT
Nowak was turned back at Harare airport after
being told his visit had been cancelled [AFP]

Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, Zimbabwe's foreign minister, has strongly criticised an attempted visit by the UN special rapporteur on torture as "a provocation of the highest order".

Manfred Nowak flew into Harare on Wednesday to investigate alleged abuses by supporters of the ruling Zanu-PF party.

But he was turned away by immigration officials at the airport, despite having an invitation from Morgan Tsvangirai, the prime minister. 

Mumbengegwi on Friday dismissed the invitation as meaningless as the power-sharing government, which includes supporters of Tsvangirai and the Zanu-PF of Robert Mugabe, the president, had told Nowak the visit was cancelled.

"The invitation by the prime minister was a nullity," Mumbengegwi told a news conference.

Mediation

Nowak was told in Johannesburg in neighbouring South Africa that his visit had been postponed due to talks between mediators from the 15-nation South African Development Community (Sadc) and leaders of the Zimbabwean power-sharing government.

"This was a calculated move to create a diplomatic incident"

Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, Zimbabwe's foreign minister

"This was a calculated move to create a diplomatic incident," Mumbengegwi said.

Mumbengegwi is a close ally of Mugabe and the foreign office is controlled by Zanu-PF loyalists under the agreement that divided the ministries between the Zimbabwean rivals.

Nowak called for the UN Human Rights Council to act after he was deported back to South Africa just hours after arriving in the country, but acknowledged that immediate moves were unlikely. 

"I think it sheds light on the present power structure of the unity government if the prime minister invites me for a personal meeting and his office is not in a position to clear my entrance to the country," Nowak said.

"That is a very alarming signal about the power structure of the present government."

Nowak said that options open to the council included the adoption of a resolution condemning Zimbabwe and requesting an investigation, or it could set up an independent investigation team to look into human rights in the country.

But Mumbengegwi said that Nowak's comments about a disfunctional government reflected his political views.

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