UN scolded for allowing Mugabe to attend food crisis conference

source: International Herald Tribune
By Elisabetta Povoledo and Alan Cowell
Published: June 2, 2008

ROME: Skirting some restrictions on his international travel, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe arrived in Rome over the weekend to attend a United Nations food conference, raising protests Monday from several participants.

The Australian foreign minister, Stephen Smith, who was scheduled to attend the conference, which runs Tuesday through Thursday, called Mugabe’s presence “frankly obscene.”

But the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, which convened the gathering, brusquely rejected the criticism.

“The fact that Mugabe and other leaders the West may not approve of are attending a UN meeting in Rome is not a scandal,” said Nick Parsons, a spokesman for the organization. “The UN is about inclusiveness, not exclusivity, giving all nations the right to participate.”

Parsons said that “in the face of the looming, impending food crisis that FAO first warned about a year ago,” a high-level meeting between countries “is the serious issue.”

He added: “The rest is irrelevant to the overall significance of what this [continue reading]

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