Blair denies calling for military action to topple Mugabe

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has denied claims his government asked South Africa for their support in invading Zimbabwe and toppling Robert Mugabe.

Thabo Mbeki, the former South African president, said his country and Britain had differing opinions on how to deal with Zimbabwe in 2000, when they were hit by an economic collapse and political repression. Mr Blair wanted Mugabe to go while Mr Mbeki favoured political negotiation.

Tony Blair and former South African president Thabo Mbeki in 2007. Credit: Peter Macdiarmid/PA Archive

Mr Mbeki, who served as president from 1999 until 2008, told Al Jazeera: "The problem was, we were speaking from different positions.

“There were other people saying ‘yes indeed there are political problems, economic problems, the best way to solve them is regime change. So Mugabe must go.’

"This was the difference. So they said ‘Mugabe must go’. But we said ‘Mugabe is part of the solution to this problem’.”

A spokesman for the former Prime Minister said: "Tony Blair has long believed that Zimbabwe would be much better off without Robert Mugabe and always argued for a tougher stance against him, but he never asked anyone to plan or take part in any such military intervention."