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Local MEP expresses "disgust" at Straw/Mugabe handshake

Tuesday, 28 September 2004

East Midlands MEP, Roger Helmer, has expressed his disgust at Foreign Secretary Jack Straw's warm greeting for Zimbabwean dictator, Robert Mugabe, at a recent UN reception in New York.

Filmed as part of a Newsnight documentary on the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, was seen chatting cordially to other world leaders, before spotting tyrant Mugabe and walking up to him, shaking his hand and expressing his regards.

Mr Helmer, currently in Brussels, said: "When Labour came to power in 1997 Tony Blair pompously declared that they would pursue an "ethical foreign policy". Well, if this was what they meant I should suggest they re-evaluate what they consider to be 'ethical'.

By shaking hands with one of the planet's cruellest and most oppressive dictators, the Foreign Secretary is showing his utter contempt for the thousands of displaced white farmers in Zimbabwe, forced off their land by Mugabe's xenophobic scorched earth policy, and the millions of black Zimbabweans forced into poverty."

He went on to say: "Imagine what would have happened if Conservative Michael Ancram was in Straw's position. I can tell you what he would have done; he would have given Mugabe the coldest of shoulders."

Mr Straw said that he didn't want to appear "rude and discourteous" towards President Mugabe. Back in Zimbabwe, inflation is running at 300%, millions are out of work and vast tracts of once fertile farmland are now barren and unusable. Political opponents are regularly imprisoned and tortured by Mugabe and the ruling Zanu PF party. The main opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, is currently awaiting trial charged with 'treason'.