Zimbabwe's Mugabe backs Iran's nuclear programme

Fri Apr 23, 2010 12:49pm GMT

By MacDonald Dzirutwe

BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has backed Iran's controversial nuclear programme and accused the West of seeking to punish the two countries for asserting their independence.

Iran faces a possible new round of United Nations sanctions over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment. The West accuses Tehran of trying to build nuclear weapons. Iran says it aims only to generate electricity.

"Be also assured, comrade president, of Zimbabwe's continuous support of Iran's just cause on the nuclear issue," Mugabe said at a banquet he hosted for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who arrived in Harare on Thursday for a two-day visit.

There was no official indication of any link between Ahmadinejad's visit and Iran's nuclear programme but Zimbabwe does hold uranium deposits which have yet to be exploited.

Zimbabwean state media quoted the Iranian president as saying the West was using the U.N. Security Council to exert pressure on his country to abandon its nuclear programme.

"Unfortunately, the United Nations Security Council, which is supposed to serve the whole world, has been used by the powerful to increase pressure on our countries," Ahmadinejad is quoted as saying.

Zimbabwe itself escaped U.N sanctions in 2008 after Mugabe's re-election in a second round poll marred by political violence, which forced his rival, Morgan Tsvangirai to pull out despite outpolling Mugabe in the first round voting.

Mugabe eventually bowed to international pressure and agreed to form a power-sharing government with Tsvangirai, now prime minister, in February 2009.   Continued...

<p>Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe (R) and his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (L) are welcomed at Harare International Airport, April 22, 2010.REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo</p>
Powered by Reuters AlertNet. AlertNet provides news, images and insight from the world's disasters and conflicts and is brought to you by Reuters Foundation.