Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe’s invitation of his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to open a trade fair has sparked fresh row in the shaky coalition government.
President Ahmadinejad will be visiting Zimbabwe on Friday to open the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF), in the second city of Bulawayo, and a manufacturing plant outside Harare
Iran and Zimbabwe have close political ties and have been trying to boost economic relations since 2002 when Western countries imposed sanctions on President Mugabe and his inner circle over alleged human rights violations.
Zimbabwe adopted a “Look East Policy”, which saw the country establishing stronger economic relations with Asia.
The ZITF is a major annual event in Zimbabwe and will be used to gauge progress made by the new government to re-establish trade contacts with the rest of the world, after several years of isolation.
However, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says the invitation would spoil Zimbabwe’s image because of the Iranian leader’s reputation internationally.
The party, which alongside Mr Mugabe’s Zanu-PF enjoys equal influence in the inclusive government formed last year, said the decision to invite President Ahmadinejad was taken “unilaterally”.
“The MDC condemns the scandalous invitation of Ahmadinejad,” the party said in a statement.
“His visit will definitely send a wrong message about the kind of company we keep at a time when the people of Africa and the rest of the world have begun to see us as a nation working hard to restore democracy and good governance.”