Gaddafi assesses severity of Zimbabwe's gas shortages

Jul 13, 2001 02:00 AM

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi rolled into Zimbabwe in a 100-vehicle motorcade to see firsthand the severity of the nation's gasoline shortages, according to President Robert Mugabe. Mugabe was scheduled to hold talks with Gaddafi on fuel shortages and economic sanctions against Zimbabwe proposed by Britain and its Western allies.
Gaddafi will discuss the possibility of Libya providing petroleum products to Zimbabwe. Gaddafi's motorcade drove 500 km (310 miles) from neighbouring Zambia, where Gaddafi and Mugabe attended a three-day summit of Africa leaders. The parade of vehicles was guarded by Zimbabwe military helicopters and escorted by armoured cars, wailing police cruisers and motorcycle outriders.
Mugabe normally travels in a 30-vehicle motorcade. "(Gaddafi) came by road because he wanted to see for himself how serious our fuel problem is. He does not want to see Zimbabwe under economic sanctions as proposed by the British," Mugabe said.

Most Western donors and financial institutions have suspended all but humanitarian aid to Zimbabwe to protest the policies of Mugabe's increasingly repressive government, including state-sponsored political violence and illegal land seizures that have crippled the agriculture-based economy.
Acute hard currency shortages have led to shortages of gasoline, essential imports and medicines. The main hospital in Harare said it had turned away kidney patients after it ran out of imported spares and materials for its dialysis machines. Long lines of vehicles outside empty gas stations awaiting deliveries have been a common sight for more than a year.
The nation's regular oil suppliers cut off shipments in November 1998 in the face of mounting hard currency arrears. Intermittent supplies resumed soon afterward. Mugabe was hopeful that Gaddafi would help. "Once we conclude these talks, we will know what to expect from Libya," Mugabe said.

On his journey to Harare, Gaddafi's black stretch limousine stopped briefly at two provincial farming towns where he addressed ruling party groups and expressed support for Mugabe's program to seize white-owned farms for the resettlement of impoverished, landless blacks.
"Zimbabwe should be for Zimbabweans, Africa for Africans. This is our sacred land.... We died for it and the whites have no place in Africa as they belong in Europe," Gaddafi said. Illegal occupations of white-owned farms by ruling party militants has disrupted production of corn, the staple food. The government admitted it was appealing for food aid from donors to offset shortages.

Zimbabwe is suffering its worst economic crisis since independence from Britain in 1980. Mugabe visited Gaddafi several times during UN sanctions against Libya that included a ban on commercial air travel. Mugabe once drove across the border from Egypt in an official motorcade to show support for Libya. The sanctions against Libya were suspended in 1999.

Source: AP
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