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Condoleezza Rice says Zimbabwe 'outpost of tyranny'

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By Staff Reporter

THE United States signalled a hardening of its stance on President Robert Mugabe's regime on Tuesday when Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice named Zimbabwe in a list of six countries the US considers as outlaw States.

In an echo of President George W Bush's "axis of evil," Condoleezza Rice named Cuba, Burma, Belarus and Zimbabwe as "outposts of tyranny" requiring close US attention.

Early in Bush's first term, he listed Iraq, Iran and North Korea as part of an "axis of evil" in the post-September 11 era - the United States later invaded Iraq, ousting longtime dictator Saddam Hussein.

As Rice spoke at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mugabe was in Harare cosying-up to the Iranian leader Mohammad Khatami whose country faces the threat of war from the Americans.

"To be sure, in o
ur world there remain outposts of tyranny and America stands with oppressed people on every continent ... in Cuba, and Burma, and North Korea, and Iran, and Belarus, and Zimbabwe," Rice said.

"The world should apply what Natan Sharansky calls the 'town square test': if a person cannot walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm, then that person is living in a fear society, not a free society. We cannot rest until every person living in a 'fear society' has finally won their freedom."

The United States has imposed sanctions on Mugabe and his inner circle -- freezing their assets and banning travel to America.

The latest rhetoric from Washington and the listing of Zimbabwe as an outlaw State will surely alarm the Harare regime which has been under international isolation since the flawed 2002 Presidential elections. The Americans and their European counterparts said the elections were a fraud.

As Rice condemned Mugabe's excesses, the 80-year-old Zimbabwean strongman was hailing Iran as a "critical partner" and vowing to take cooperation to "new heights" as he welcomed President Mohammad Khatami to Zimbabwe.

"The Americans have demonised my leadership and government while feverishly working to effect a regime change"

Khatami, who arrived in Harare late on Monday on the penultimate leg of a seven-nation African tour, was due on Tuesday to visit the National Heroes' Acre in Harare where those who fought in Zimbabwe's liberation war against British colonial rule are buried.

He will then hold talks with Mugabe before leaving for the Victoria Falls, the country's top tourist destination.

Speaking at a banquet in Khatami's honour late on Monday, Mugabe hailed oil-rich Iran as a key partner in Zimbabwe's drive to shun the West.

"We attach great importance to this visit as it will enable us to work towards strengthening and diversifying our relations," Mugabe said.

"Your visit affords an opportunity to raise our bilateral cooperation to new heights, as my government has embarked on a deliberate 'look East' policy in which your country is a critical partner."

Iran is one of the countries Mugabe has been warming up to following his new policy, partly forced by Zimbabwe's isolation from the West over controversial land reforms and allegedly fraud-marred elections in 2000 and 2002.

Mugabe also slammed Western powers opposed to his land reforms, saying they are the same ones who branded Iran part of an "axis of evil", a reference to the policy outlined by United States President George Bush in 2002 that put Iran, Iraq and North Korea on the top of the US list of outlaw states.

"They have demonised my leadership and government while feverishly working to effect a regime change," Mugabe said.

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