Nation of Islam's Farrakhan Backs Zimbabwe's Land Seizure Program

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan had given his backing to a program by President Robert Mugabe's government to seize thousands of white-owned farms, a state-owned newspaper reported Saturday.

Farrakhan, who is on a three day visit to Zimbabwe, told The Herald newspaper he was "in full support of President Mugabe's policies, especially the land issue, as it was aimed at correcting a historical injustice."

Zimbabwe's increasingly unpopular government has targeted about 95 percent of white commercial farms for confiscation, saying it wants to redistribute them to landless blacks. The program has been condemned by Western governments and contributed to widespread food shortages.

Whites make up less than one percent of Zimbabwe's population. Until Mugabe's recent land seizures, white farmers -- most of whom are the descendants of British and South African colonial era settlers -- owned about one third of the nation's productive farmland.

The Herald said Farrakhan had expressed respect for Mugabe's "stance against Western maneuvers to undermine the sovereignty of Zimbabwe."

Farrakhan, who traveled to Zimbabwe from South Africa where he attended the launch of the African Union, a new organization that aims to lift the continent out of poverty through development and good governance, was due to meet Mugabe later Saturday.

Farrakhan holds controversial opinions on race relations and Jews and has been refused entry to Britain, which fears he may fuel racial tension.

The U.S. State Department has imposed targeted sanctions against Mugabe and prominent supporters of his regime, who stand accused of rigging March presidential elections and intimidating opposition supporters.

The U.S. Embassy in Harare was not informed of Farrakhan's visit, said Bruce Wharton, an embassy spokesman.