updated 9/25/2008 6:20:24 PM ET 2008-09-25T22:20:24

Zimbabwe's president lashed out at Western powers in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday, accusing them of genocide and calling for the removal of U.S. and British sanctions.

Robert Mugabe slammed Western-led efforts earlier this year at the United Nations to step up punitive measures against his regime, and he praised Russia and China for blocking them.

"By the way, those who falsely accuse us of these violations are themselves international perpetrators of genocide, acts of aggression and mass destruction," Mugabe said in his speech.

"The masses of innocent men, women and children who have perished in the thousands in Iraq surely demand retribution and vengeance. Who shall heed their cry?" Mugabe asked.

The United States only had a note-taker present for Mugabe's speech.

Mugabe did not specifically mention Zimbabwe's disputed election earlier this year, but he thanked South Africa's former President Thabo Mbeki for his mediation efforts that led to a power-sharing deal.

Mugabe praised Mbeki, "whose patience, fortitude, sensitivity, diplomatic skills and painstaking work made it possible for the Zimbabwean parties to overcome what had appeared to be insurmountable and intractable difficulties to reaching agreement."

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai won the most votes in March presidential polling, but not enough to avoid a runoff against Mugabe. An onslaught of violence against Tsvangirai's supporters led him to drop out of the presidential runoff and Mugabe was declared the overwhelming winner of the second vote, which was widely denounced as a sham.

Under the power-sharing deal signed Sept. 15 with his rivals, Mugabe is supposed to cede some of the powers he has wielded for nearly three decades in the southern African country.

Trading blame
Western sanctions have targeted individuals and companies seen to be supporting Mugabe's regime. They were tightened after elections this spring and the European Union recently added an arms ban.

"Once again, I appeal to the world's collective conscience to apply pressure for the immediate removal of these sanctions by Britain, the United States and their allies, which have brought untold suffering to our people," Mugabe told world leaders.

Mugabe blames the sanctions for the collapse of Zimbabwe's economy, but critics point to his 2000 order that commercial farms be seized from whites. Mugabe says the land reform program was meant to help poor blacks.

Food, fuel, hospital supplies and other necessities are scarce as prices skyrocket in the region's former breadbasket. Zimbabwe now has the world's highest inflation rate even by the official figure of at 11 million percent, and independent economists put it much higher.

On Thursday, Mugabe praised his land reform program, saying "the majority of our rural people have been empowered to contribute to household and national food security and, indeed, to be masters of their own destiny."

"However, the effects of climate change that have included recurrent droughts and floods in the past seven years, and the illegal, unilaterally-imposed sanctions on my country have hindered Zimbabwe's efforts to increase food production."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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