“ROME, Italy (AP) -- The leaders of Zimbabwe and Venezuela on Monday denounced President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair as "unholy men," and blamed the United States and other developed countries for world hunger, pollution and war. Zimbabwe leader compares Bush, Blair to Hitler, Mussolini”
President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez turned their speeches at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization into tirades, with the African leader describing Blair and Bush as "two unholy men of our millennium."
Chavez accused what he called "the North American empire" of threatening "all life on the planet," while Mugabe compared Bush and Blair, for their alliance in the war in Iraq, to Germany's Adolf Hitler and Italy's Benito Mussolini, who were World War II allies.
U.S. representatives at the U.N. organization's gathering in Rome said Mugabe and Chavez made "a mockery" of the occasion with their scathing remarks.
The gathering, a day after the United Nations marked World Food Day, commemorated the organization's 60th anniversary.
The verbal attacks by Chavez and Mugabe drew cheers and applause from many of the delegates. The organization has 188 members.
"These leaders chose to politicize an event that was meant to be about feeding the hungry people of the world," Tony Hall, the U.S. ambassador to U.N. food agencies, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
"Mugabe, especially, should not have been invited," Hall said. "He would be the last person, I think, an organization should invite to talk about hunger."
A defiant Mugabe defended the land reforms blamed for ruining the country's agriculture-based economy and contributing to widespread famine there.
Agreement avoids restrictions
The European Union has imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe's political elite that include travel restrictions. But an agreement between Italy and the U.N. agency allows all delegations to go to the organization's headquarters, FAO spokesman Nick Parsons said.
Despite the restrictions, Mugabe has been allowed to do some travel in the countries that imposed the sanctions, including U.N. General Assembly sessions in New York.
The seizure of white-owned commercial farms in the past five years and prolonged drought have crippled Zimbabwe's agriculture-based economy. About 4 million Zimbabweans are in urgent need of food aid in what was once a regional breadbasket, according to U.N. estimates.
Recent constitutional changes in Zimbabwe will prevent white owners of confiscated farms from recovering their land and could be used to strip critics of their passports and the right to travel.
Mugabe defended the land reforms as "redressing the past gross imbalances in land ownership which were institutionalized by British colonialism."
"Countries such as the U.S. and Britain have taken it upon themselves to decide for us in the developing world, even to interfere in our domestic affairs and to bring about what they call regime change," he said.
Chavez praised Mugabe's land reform, saying the African leader had been "demonized" and that similar reforms were being enacted in his own country.
The Venezuelan leader used his speech to rail against woes that he blamed on rich countries -- including climate change, agricultural trade barriers and debt interest payments by developing nations. He called for wealthy nations to cancel debt, or give poor countries a grace period of at least a year on the interest payments.
Brazilian president focuses on hunger
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva appealed to rich countries to put hunger on their political agendas. He also suggested poor countries should stamp out the corruption that often diverts aid.
"The poor countries must give an example of honesty, of ethics, so that we truly deserve the solidarity from millions and millions of people who would like to contribute but sometimes are not sure their money will go where it should go," the Brazilian leader said.
The U.N. agency said it had signed a deal with Brazil to run food programs for schoolchildren in developing countries around the world.
My Opinion: It is no coincidence this is the first time the President of U.S. has experienced so many broad but parallel accusations against hi; not only by International Leaders but by his own citizens.