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Archbishop seeking Mugabe meeting

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The Archbishop of Canterbury is hoping to have face to face discussions with Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe next month amid the violent persecution of Anglicans in the African country.

Dr Rowan Williams has requested a meeting with the Zimbabwean president when he travels to Harare as part of a tour of the south of the continent, according to his spokeswoman.

Dr Williams, who will become the first prominent British representative to visit Zimbabwe's capital in a decade, is making the journey in an attempt to "show solidarity" with Anglicans in the region, she added.

In recent months priests are said to have been beaten and arrested by police, staff evicted from church buildings and property seized, while some Anglicans have allegedly been arrested and murdered.

Some have questioned whether Dr Williams would make the trip due to the violent regime, but Lambeth Palace said there had never been any debate over the matter.

The Archbishop's spokeswoman, who confirmed he will also visit Malawi and Zambia during the trip, said the recent persecution is "more of a reason to go because people need more pastoral care".

She said: "The aim of the trip as a whole is a pastoral visit and it's to show solidarity with Anglicans there, that's really the aim of the trip."

Dr Chad Gandiya, the Bishop of Harare, told The Times he hoped the visit would bring respite to the Zimbabwean Church.

He said police had been acting on the instructions of Nolbert Kunonga, the leader of a breakaway church and Mugabe supporter.

Last month the country's Chief Justice ruled that all Anglican property in the Harare diocese was under Mr Kunonga's custody.

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