Zimbabwe is out of my reach, says Blair

Funny, he didn’t say that about other places where he has committed British military intervention. Like Iraq or Afghanistan or the Balkans where there was nothing like the same level of human suffering – except in Iraq, where according to some estimates, sanctions enforced by British forces at the behest of Tony Blair wrought nearly a million deaths.

Of course the actual figures vary but the fact remains that Blair is still treated in some quarters as a liberator – not the war criminal he really is. Ed.

Tony Blair admitted the limits of his interventionist policy on Africa yesterday, saying that Robert Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe would end only if neighbouring countries agreed to it. With President Mbeki of South Africa standing impassively beside him, Mr Blair said that Britain’s role could be confined only to supporting the actions of others.

After talks in which the two leaders discussed Zimbabwe, the G8 summit and world trade negotiations, Mr Blair told a press conference in Pretoria that the only option was “an African solution”.

“The truth is whatever the views I have, and they are well known and they are very clear, the most important thing is to help the people there,” he said. “But it is from within Zimbabwe and this region that change has got to come. What we will do is support those, like President Mbeki, who are trying to bring about change.”
He added: “I get attacked from both ways round on this. I get attacked for not single-handedly changing events in Zimbabwe, and I get attacked from the other side because people say when Britain intervenes it is the least helpful thing in relation to this.”

His comments were in marked contrast to those he made earlier in his trip, when he spoke in favour of a “thoroughly interventionist” foreign policy towards Africa.

Mr Mbeki has been accused of failing to use his role as the head of Africa’s superpower, and Zimbabwe’s immediate neighbour, to confront Mr Mugabe but Mr Blair praised him for acting as a mediator between the Government and opposition groups in Zimbabwe.

Mr Mbeki, in response to a question on Zimbabwe, confined his response to a terse summary of an agreement within the Southern Africa Development Community, which was accepted by Zimbabwe, to seek a political solution.

“The decision was that we should facilitate the discussions between the Government and ruling party and the opposition in order to find a solution to these problems, which has started,” Mr Mbeki said. “Indeed, we are engaged in that process now.”

Speaking from Zimbabwe, Mr Mugabe blamed Britain for backing what he called a terrorist campaign by his opponents and said that his nation’s security forces were on heightened alert. In a speech to police recruits he condemned “shameless arm-twisting tactics by Britain and political opponents”.

British officials said that Mr Mbeki had not been given sufficient credit for changing his position on Zimbabwe and agreeing to act as mediator. He has hosted meetings with Zimbabwe’s main opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change, which is seen as significant. His position may simply be a response to the economic reality of the damage caused by the collapse of the Zimbabwean economy, where inflation is now 3,700 per cent.

South Africa has experienced huge inflows of refugees across its border with Zimbabwe and its gross domestic product has fallen 3 per cent as a result of Zimbabwe’s economic slump.

President Kufuor of Ghana, chairman of the African Union, has also been active in seeking change in Zimbabwe, as has President Kikwete of Tanzania