British minister says Zimbabwe's Mugabe is "obstacle" and has to go

London - A British government minister Monday called on President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe to "step aside" as he had become an "obstacle" to any power-sharing deal.

Africa Minister Mark Malloch-Brown told the BBC: "Power-sharing isn't dead but Mugabe has become an absolute impossible obstacle to achieving it."

His criticism followed Sunday's condemnation by US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Jendayi Frazer, who described Zimbabwe as a "failed state" and said Mugabe was "losing his mind" and was "out of touch with reality."

"The final death throes of these kinds of situations seem terribly slow and grim and unnecessary," said Malloch-Brown, who visited South Africa earlier this month to discuss the Zimbabwe situation.

Malloch-Brown was asked about claims that Mugabe's regime was being "bankrolled" by businesses in Britain, following a report in the Times on Monday that, of 21 companies put on a US blacklist, 14 were based in Britain or overseas British territories.

"Where the US moves, we try to stay as closely in line with them as possible; our procedures, because they're done through Europe, are slower," said Malloch-Brown.

"It is the case that totally-owned Zimbabwean subsidiaries of companies registered here in the UK do still have freedom to operate, but we do not believe that there are sanction-busting activities being run out of the UK," he said. (dpa)

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