Mugabe agrees land deal for cash
ABUJA, Nigeria -- Commonwealth leaders have welcomed moves to end the occupation of white owned farms in Zimbabwe.
But Robert Mugabe's government has not promised the violence -- which has seen self-styled war veterans occupying white-owned farms -- will end.
Tension has existed in Zimbabwe for more than a year after the government's land redistribution programme was stepped up, escalating into assaults and the death of nine white-farmers.
The violent tactics deployed in restoring prime farmland owned by a majority of whites to impoverished landless blacks has resulted in international condemnation and economic crisis.
Zimbabwe agreed on Thursday during a meeting of Commonwealth foreign ministers in Nigeria to act against the self-styled independence war veterans who have been occupying white-owned farms.
Zimbabwe has promised under the agreement that no further white farms will be occupied.
The deal also committed Zimbabwe to broader political reforms, including guaranteeing freedom of expression and pledging "to take firm action against violence and intimidation."
Zimbabwean Foreign Secretary Stan Mudenge said: "The agreement we reached yesterday is a compromise. It is a commitment by Zimbabwe and a commitment by Britain and the international community."
But so far, Mugabe has not publicly endorsed the deal and UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said it was now time for Zimbabwe to turn words into action.
Britain and other countries have agreed to compensate white farmers for land taken from them as part of the agreement.
Britain had been signed up to help its former colony financially in its general land reform programme in the 1990s, but later rescinded on the policy when Tony Blair became prime minister in 1997.
The United Nations Development Programme will work with Zimbabwe's government under Thursday's communique to pursue the land reform policy.
But not all white-farmers will get their property back from illegal squatters. Only those illegal occupiers on farms that have not been "designated" for acquisition by the government will be removed.
The agreement has also tied the international community to "respond positively to any request from the government of Zimbabwe in support of the electoral process."
Presidential elections scheduled for next year are predicted to be close.
Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Winston Cox told reporters in Australia: "This assurance does indeed sound like it has a very good chance of succeeding.
"That is roughly what one would wish for, that they would halt occupation and that land reform be done in an orderly fashion that does not violate the rule of law and which does not threaten the viability of the Zimbabwe economy."
Zimbabwe Land Minister Joseph Made said he was satisfied with the communique -- but added, he could not guarantee the violence would end.
"Don't ask me if the violence will continue. I haven't perpetrated violence any more than you have," he told reporters.
Zimbabwe has been under increasing pressure to act against the violence.
Neighbouring African countries are fearful of any disturbance spilling over into their own territories and any economic impact on their own markets and currencies.
The European Union Parliament on Thursday urged its member governments to freeze bank accounts held by Mugabe, his family and close associates, as well as ban travel by him to their countries, and consider suspension of financial aid to Zimbabwe.
Politicians in the United States have also debated imposing sanctions on Mugabe's country.
Mugabe's government has identified about 5,000 white-owned farms for acquisition -- about 60 per cent of the 30 million acres that the government says is held by whites. Militants have occupied about 1,700 of them.
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UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office
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