Annan still plans to visit Zimbabwe despite invalid invitation

Annan had been planning for a year to visit Zimbabwe at the invitation of President Robert Mugabe to see the outcome of a slum clearance operation that has left some 700,000 people homeless or without livelihoods.

But Mugabe spokesman George Charamba said last week that there was no longer any need for Annan to visit because the operation had been followed by a rehousing program. Charamba's comments came after reports emerged that Annan might use the visit to press Mugabe to step down after more than two decades in power, the AP reports.

Annan told reporters Tuesday morning that he was not sure the invitation had been withdrawn. Though a date for the visit had not been set, he still hoped to go to Zimbabwe.

Western development aid, investment and loans have dried up in political and economic turmoil following Mugabe's campaign, begun in 2000, to seize farms from whites and transfer the land to blacks.

Zimbabwe's once healthy, agriculture-based economy has collapsed since the seizures began and Mugabe has grown increasingly autocratic.

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