Image: Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe
Desmond Kwande  /  AFP - Getty Images
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe addresses suppporters at the ZANU-PF party's annual conference in the northwestern mining town on Bindura on Friday.
updated 12/19/2008 12:17:33 PM ET 2008-12-19T17:17:33

President Robert Mugabe said Friday that "Zimbabwe is mine" and vowed never to surrender, saying no African nation is brave enough to topple him.

Mugabe, who has led the country since its 1980 independence from Britain, has faced renewed criticism — most recently from the top U.S. envoy for Africa — amid a cholera outbreak that has killed more than 1,000 people since August.

"I will never, never sell my country. I will never, never, never surrender," Mugabe told members of his ZANU-PF party at its annual convention. "Zimbabwe is mine, I am a Zimbabwean, Zimbabwe for Zimbabweans. Zimbabwe never for the British. Britain for the British."

Jendayi Frazer, U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs, said Thursday that "there is a complete collapse right now" in Zimbabwe.

"We think that the person who has ruined the country ... that he needs to step down," Frazer said. "We're watching Zimbabwe become a failed state. We need to act now, proactively, in Zimbabwe."

Mugabe on Friday questioned which African countries "would have the courage" to order a military intervention.

"What the Americans want just now, is the removal of President Mugabe. But President Mugabe has been elected by his people and we have told them as we have told the Europeans that the only persons with the power to remove Robert Gabriel Mugabe are the people of Zimbabwe," he said.

Most neighboring countries including regional giant South Africa are opposed to military intervention in Zimbabwe, where 1,123 people have died from cholera and the United Nations says half the population faces imminent starvation.

Embattled leader
Mugabe's critics blame his policies for the ruin of the once-productive nation. Mugabe blames Western sanctions for the nation's economic meltdown, though the European Union and U.S. sanctions are targeted only at Mugabe and dozens of his clique with frozen bank accounts and travel bans.

Frazer was in southern Africa consulting with regional leaders Thursday about what can be done to help Zimbabwe. A day earlier, South African President Kgalema Motlanthe stressed that he believed a proposed unity government was the solution, and that it must be formed quickly.

Foreign ministers for the five Nordic countries also called for the end of Mugabe's "misrule," saying in a statement Friday that Zimbabwe's authorities "alone bear the responsibility for the tragic situation" facing the country.

Opposition pulls out of talks
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai beat Mugabe in March presidential elections at which his party also ended the 28-year domination of Parliament by Mugabe's party. But officials results said Tsvangirai did not win outright, and he withdrew from a runoff because of state-sponsored violence.

To break the impasse over the presidential votes, Mugabe and Tsvangirai agreed to form a unity government three months ago but have been deadlocked since over how to share Cabinet posts.

Tsvangirai said Friday that he will ask his party, the Movement for Democratic Change, to halt negotiations unless political detainees are released or charged by Jan. 1.

He told a news conference in neighboring Botswana that more than 42 members of his opposition party and civil society have been abducted in the past two months. They include three journalists and their whereabouts remain unknown.

"The MDC can no longer sit at the same negotiating table with a party that is abducting our members and other innocent civilians and refusing to produce any of them before a court of law," Tsvangirai said.

Also Friday, the central bank unveiled a new 10 billion Zimbabwe dollar bank note, the largest in a range of bills introduced since August when it slashed ten zeros from the old currency in a hopeless effort to keep up with stratospheric inflation.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Cholera deaths top 1,100

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