Friday, Dec 12, 2003
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By Hasan Suroor
Mr. Mugabe was given the knighthood barely 10 years ago, ironically, in recognition of his "important contribution'' to strengthening his country's relations with Britain.
If it is withdrawn, he will become the first foreign leader in recent memory to be stripped of the honour which, for all the fuss that is made over it, has only a ceremonial significance, especially for foreigners as they are not allowed to use the title `Sir'.
Mr. Blair himself expressed doubt if the move would have any `impact'.
"We will certainly look at the issue of the honorary knighthood, although I somehow question what the impact of that might be,'' he told an Opposition MP in the Commons.
His remarks came amid speculation that Zimbabwe might break off diplomatic relations with Britain in protest at Mr. Blair's role in what Mr. Mugabe believes was a "racist plot'' by white nations to keep his country out of the Commonwealth. But Mr. Blair defended the decision not to readmit Harare into the Commonwealth saying "it should remain suspended until we saw concrete evidence of a return to democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law.''
Rejecting the charge of a racist plot, Mr. Blair accused Mr. Mugabe of pushing his country "further and further into chaos'' with his "ruinous economic policies''.
"In these circumstances, I and others argued that it was inconceivable that Zimbabwe should be readmitted to the councils of the Commonwealth,'' he said.
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