Two new buddies
HARARE (AFP) — The leaders of Zimbabwe and Iran are looking to form a self-styled "coalition for peace" after receiving a joint tongue-lashing from US President George W. Bush, officials said Wednesday.
The government in Harare confirmed President Robert Mugabe and his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad discussed the formation of such a coalition on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, where Bush delivered a harsh assessment of their regimes on Tuesday.
"The United States and its allies are so bloodthirsty they don't want to see peace anywhere in the world," deputy information minister Bright Matonga told AFP.
"Our leaders are saying there is a need for like-minded countries to come together and form a coalition that will discuss constructive developmental issues."
The state-controlled Herald newspaper quoted Zimbabwe's ambassador to the United Nations, Boniface Chidyausiku, as saying Mugabe and Ahmadinejad discussed "areas of mutual interest" in New York.
"The leaders also discussed the need to come up with a coalition for peace in response to the aggression of global bullies," Chidyausiku added.
Isolated by his former allies in the West after being accused of rigging his re-election in 2002, Mugabe has forged new alliances with countries in Asia as well as buttressed ties with traditional US foes such as Cuba and Iran.
In his speech to the General Assembly, Bush said the people of Zimbabwe needed help to free themselves from suffering under a "tyrannical regime", and named Iran among a list of "brutal regimes".
While some commentators saw the idea of a formal alliance among states in the US doghouse as a logical move, others were unconvinced that it would serve any practical purpose.
"It will be viewed as a group of antagonists of the West coming together for political reasons and it's not going to be of much significance," Harare-based political analyst Takura Zhangazha said.
"It's essentially political grandstanding and I don't foresee anything coming out of it unless, perhaps, if they rope in (stand-in Cuban leader) Raul Castro and (Venezuelan President) Hugo Chavez.
"Zimbabwe and Iran have a history of agreements that were never completed."
Lawyer and political analyst Johannes Tomana however said the coalition would work if members are committed to its objectives.
"If they are coming together for a common goal and have unity of purpose there is no doubt that it will work," Tomana said.
"It's a question of determination. Look at what Britain has done. It has managed to rope in the EU into its bilateral row with Zimbabwe and the entire bloc has rallied against Zimbabwe."
Augustine Timbe, a commentator for the pro-government Chronicle newspaper, said Iran and Zimbabwe "share a common pain inflicted by the West" and should find more countries in similar circumstances to form an effective alliance.
The burgeoning alliance between Zimbabwe and Iran, part of Bush's original 2002 "axis of evil", has again highlighted the rift between Mugabe and his former Western allies who have imposed sanctions on his regime.
Matonga argued that events in Iraq meant the United States should be slapped with sanctions.
"Bush is the tyrant and a hypocrite for that matter. Look at what he has done to Iraq. There is no functioning government anymore," he said.
"He turns a blind eye to the damage he has caused in Iraq and Afghanistan and now he wants to usurp the powers of the UN and punish those who do not share his thinking.
"The US should have sanctions imposed on it and not the countries that Bush says should be punished."