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LUSAKA (AFP) — Zambia’s government has lodged a formal protest with neighbouring Zimbabwe over continued accusations that Lusaka is in league with Western nations to oust President Robert Mugabe, an official said Friday.

Foreign Minister Kabinga Pande said the Zimbabwean government, through its mouthpiece the state-run Herald newspaper, has regularly accused Zambia’s President Levy Mwanawasa of pushing for regime change in Harare.

“We have lodged a note verbale, which is a diplomatic communication to the Zimbabwean government, to protest over the sustained malicious campaign against Zambia,” Pande said in a statement.

Relations between Zambia and Zimbabwe have been strained ever since Mwanawasa likened the economic meltdown across his country’s southern border as a ‘sinking titanic’ and urged other African countries to intervene in the situation.

Mwanawasa, who is head of the 14-member Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), has been pushing for hardline stance on Zimbabwe although other countries prefer a more softly-softly approach.

In a piece earlier this week, the Herald said Mwanawasa had “admitted that he was under pressure from Britain and its Western allies to exert pressure on Zimbabwe” and said his “confession followed a series of questionable decisions over Zimbabwe”.

According to a diplomatic source, almost all diplomatic contacts between the two countries have been curtailed in recent months after Zimbabwe’s government accused Zambia of receiving ‘aid’ from the West to push for regime change.

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