British General: â€œThe subjects discussed included invading Zimbabwe, which people were always trying to get me to look at. My advice was, ‘Hold hard, you’ll make it worse.’â€?
[Africa News Update]
The former head of Britain’s armed forces has revealed that he discussed a possible military invasion of Zimbabwe with ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair.
As Chief of the Defense Staff from 1997 to 2001, Charles Guthrie struck up a close relationship with the then Prime Minister and became known as Blair’s favorite general.
Lord Guthrie was widely credited – or blamed – for encouraging fresh-faced new PM Tony Blair to become a hawk willing to send British troops to die in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. In an interview with the Independent newspaper, Lord Guthrie revealed he had been asked to “look at” an invasion of Zimbabwe as a means to bring down President Robert Mugabe’s government.
Talking about his close relationship with Blair, he said: “We used to talk about things. I could say anything to him, because he knew I wasn’t going to spill the beans. The subjects discussed included invading Zimbabwe, which people were always trying to get me to look at. My advice was, ‘Hold hard, you’ll make it worse.’”
Lord Guthrie’s claims immediately drew a sharp rebuke from the Zimbabwe government which accuses Britain and its western allies of seeking to topple President Mugabe, largely through economic measures and sponsoring the opposition.
“They will never succeed,” said Bright Matonga, Zimbabwe’s deputy Information Minister. “Him and Blair, they failed on Zimbabwe and they will fail everywhere,” he said, referring to Lord Guthrie. “They are dying like flies in Afghanistan and Iraq, and they say they were contemplating coming to Zimbabwe. They should ask the Americans what happened in Somalia.”
Matonga said Lord Guthrie was “dancing and cheering in the dark”, suggesting that the timing of his claims to coincide with the launch of his book, Just War, was an attempt to “boost his retirement package”. Matonga added: “It’s all wishful thinking.”
Britain has been Mugabe’s leading critic on the international stage after Zimbabwe began seizing white commercial farms and accusations that the Zimbabwean leader rigged elections and used violence against his opponents to stay in power.
Britain responded through a range of what it says are “targeted sanctions” through the European Union. The measures, also implemented by the United States and Australia, prevent President Mugabe and close to a hundred of his lieutenants from travelling to the western countries’ territories. The measures also include an asset freeze and a ban on citizens of those countries doing business with members of Mugabe’s inner circle.
Mugabe insists the dispute is a bilateral issue between Zimbabwe and Britain centered on the take-over of white commercial farms.
“We continue to face hostility from Britain and some of her Western allies,” Mugabe said in July.
“Our detractors have redoubled efforts to achieve regime change. The violence and other acts of lawlessness we have witnessed in recent months, which were planned and executed in complicity with certain Western powers, were meant to create mayhem.”
The new British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has maintained Blair’s hard-line stance against Mugabe. Brown has threatened to boycott an EU-Africa summit set for Portugal in December if Mugabe attends.
His stance has been criticized by African leaders and German Chancellor Angela Merkel who says “criticism of Mugabe can be leveled at him when he is there.”
(All material copyright newzimbabwe.com)
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