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BINDURA, Zimbabwe – Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe on Friday blamed sanctions imposed by Western countries for his government's failure to pay salaries on time, in his first public comments after a week of unrest in the county.
Mugabe, 92 and in power for 36 years, was addressing supporters in Bindura, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) northeast of the capital, Harare. He delivered his speech in the dark, explaining that he was late because he spent most of the day in meetings to solve internal differences in his ZANU-PF party.
Government workers boycotted this week because they had not been paid their June salaries. The boycott was called off Thursday after government started paying the outstanding salaries.
On Monday, police in Harare battled rioters protesting what they said was police harassment. On Wednesday, the country shut down after people heeded a call for a national strike organized via social media.
Mugabe said the salary delays were temporary, adding that striking government workers were ignorant of Zimbabwe's history.
"They don't understand because some of them never experienced the hardships we faced when we were under white minority rule. Now they have a government that gives them land, jobs and prosperity," he said in the local Shona language.
Mugabe did not directly address Zimbabwe's widespread social unrest but claimed the United States and European countries were out to destabilize the country. He also accused opposition parties of receiving advice from "white South Africans."
Mugabe routinely blames the West for Zimbabwe's economic and political problems.
He accused the United States and European Union countries of stifling Zimbabwe's economy through sanctions.
"We have problems emanating from sanctions. It doesn't mean we are poor. The sanctions are hurting us. Be patient, we will pay you," he said.