Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe said today that the United States and Britain are "stupid" to criticize him and insist that he step down.
After months of protests inside and outside the country, Mugabe signed a power-sharing deal Sept. 15 with Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition.
But, as the two men continue to fight over control of key Cabinet posts, international support for Mugabe's role in the power-sharing government has virtually disappeared.
Jendayi Frazer, the lead U.S. diplomat for Africa, said during the weekend that Mugabe must step down and Mark Malloch Brown, Britain's Africa minister, echoed the call Monday..
"This stupid and foolish thinking" ignores that only Zimbabweans can make such a decision, Mugabe said after attending a funeral for a retired army general, The Associated Press reported.
"We are not going to listen to what [President] Bush and [British Prime Minister] Gordon Brown are saying," Mugabe said. "We do realize that these are the last kicks of a dying horse."
Under the power-sharing arrangement, the United States promised to lift sanctions if the deal was consummated.
But Frazer, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs, said Sunday that the offer had been taken off the table.
Amid an increasingly fraught economic climate, Zimbabweans are now caught in the grip of a cholera epidemic, which has killed 1,111 people, according to figures released last week by the World Health Organization.
Paul Garwood of the organization's Department of Health Action in Crises, who recently returned from Zimbabwe, told ABC News that people there are suffering on many different levels.
"The latest situation I saw was a health system in great need of assistance in terms of ... supplies, medicines, water and improvements in sanitation systems," he said. "In the immediate term, the great need is a response to the cholera outbreak and there is a great need to control outbreaks that are springing up in different parts of the country," he said.
According to the World Health Organization, 20,581 Zimbabweans have been struck with cholera since the outbreak of the disease in August.
On Dec. 13, The Herald, the country's state-run newspaper, quoted the information minister, Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, as saying, "Cholera is a calculated racist terrorist attack on Zimbabwe by the unrepentant former colonial power, which has enlisted support from its American and Western allies so that they can invade the country."
Ndlovu described the disease as a "serious biological chemical war ... a genocidal onslaught on the people of Zimbabwe by the British."
The London Times reported Monday that 18 of the 21 companies blacklisted by the United States for financially supporting the Mugabe regime have been operating with impunity in Britain, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands and the British Virgin Islands.
At the top of the list, according to the Times, is the private equity firm Breco, controlled by U.K.-based businessman John Bredenkamp. On its Web site, the U.S. Treasury describes Bredenkamp as "a well-known Mugabe insider involved in various business activities, including tobacco trading, gray-market arms trading and trafficking, equity investments, oil distribution, tourism, sports management and diamond extraction."