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Mugabe could be stripped of knighthood

  • Story Highlights
  • UK govt has not ruled out stripping Mugabe of knighthood, Foreign Office says
  • Zimbabwean leader was handed title in 1994 by former PM John Major
  • Stripping someone of knighthood requires the approval of queen
  • Mugabe meanwhile uses U.N. summit to accuse UK of trying to "cripple" Zimbabwe
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- British officials have not ruled out revoking the knighthood of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, a foreign office spokeswoman said Tuesday, following a report that the government was taking the first steps to strip him of the title.

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Mugabe was handed his honorary knighthood by British PM John Major's government in 1994.

"We're listening to the views of those who wish to see Mugabe's knighthood removed and we're not ruling out taking action on this," the spokeswoman said, who declined to be identified in line with policy.

Britain's Channel 4 reported Monday that the Foreign Office is taking steps to remove Mugabe's honorary knighthood, awarded in 1994 by the government of Prime Minister John Major.

Revoking the title is a detailed, lengthy process that begins with the Foreign Office recommending the forfeit of the award, the spokeswoman said. That recommendation is made to the queen via the prime minister's office.

If the queen approves the recommendation, the Central Chancery of the Orders of the Knighthood is informed, the spokeswoman said. The chancery is part of the palace and organizes the knighthoods and honors.

Finally, the Foreign Office notifies the recipient of the honor that it is being revoked, the spokeswoman said.

Mugabe meanwhile used a U.N. food summit Tuesday to launch a renewed attack on his country's old colonial master, accusing Britain of persuading other Western powers to impose policies against Zimbabwe that "cripple" his country's economy and "thereby effect illegal regime change."

The Zimbabwean leader, whose presence at the three-day U.N. food summit is causing outrage among some leaders, said Britain "mobilized" allies in Europe, North America and elsewhere to impose "illegal economic sanctions" against Zimbabwe and to cut off "all developmental assistance."

Critics blame Mugabe's policies for a dramatic drop in food production and agricultural exports in Zimbabwe -- a country once known as southern Africa's "breadbasket."

The African leader has frequently attacked Britain in the past. Perversely, honorary knighthoods are supposed to go to those who have made an important contribution to relations between their country and Britain.

The awarded is given by the queen, on the advice of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Unlike British citizens, those receiving honorary knighthoods may not refer to themselves as sirs or dames. They are, however, awarded medals and may use the letters "KBE" after their names, which stands for Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

Foreign citizens with honorary knighthoods include Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, former U.S. Secretary of State Caspar Weinberger, former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, and former French President Francois Mitterrand.

Some British politicians have previously called for the revoking of Mugabe's knighthood, citing accusations of human rights violations including torture and starvation.

"We should strip Mugabe of this ill-judged knighthood," wrote Edward Davey, a Liberal Democrat member of parliament, on his Web site last month. "The fact Britain still honors Mugabe is a scandal."

All About Food and Agriculture Organization of the United NationsZimbabweRobert Mugabe

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