|UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Zimbabwe won approval on Friday to head a key U.N. body charged with promoting economic progress and environmental protection despite protests from the U.S., European nations and human rights organizations.|
The 53-member Commission on Sustainable Development voted 26-21 with three abstentions on the new chair, said Luiz Alberto Figueiredo Machado, vice chair of the commission. The chair traditionally rotates among regions of the world and it is Africa's choice this year. The government of Zimbabwe has nominated Francis Nhema, the minister of environment and tourism, to chair the commission.
President Robert Mugabe, an 83-year-old who has ruled Zimbabwe since it gained independence from Britain in 1980, has been criticized by the West and domestic opponents for repression, corruption, acute food shortages and gross economic mismanagement that has driven inflation above 2,000 percent -- the highest in the world. Mugabe has acknowledged that police used violent methods against opposition supporters.
"We're very disappointed in the election of Zimbabwe as chair," said the U.S. representative to the commission Dan Reifsnyder, deputy assistant secretary for environment and science at the State Department.
"We really think it calls into question the credibility of this organization to have a representative from a country that has decimated its agriculture, that used to be the breadbasket of Africa and can't now feed itself," said Reifsnyder.
U.S. officials said the commission deals with rural development and sustainable agriculture and Zimbabwe is no role model on those themes.
Mugabe's government disrupted the agriculture-based economy in 2000 with violent seizures of white-owned commercial farms, part of a program to redistribute land to poor blacks.
I am trying to think of something witty to say but what is left to say about the UN?