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After Ahmadinejad visit, Zimbabwe now set to host North Korea World Cup team

Days after Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stopped by, Robert Mugabe's regime in Zimbabwe gets ready to host North Korea's soccer team in the run-up to the World Cup.

By Ian EvansCorrespondent / April 25, 2010

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are welcomed at Harare International Airport, Thursday.

Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters


Cape Town, South Africa; and Harare, Zimbabwe

Several days ago, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe rolled out the red carpet for Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, reportedly in celebration of a secret deal for Zimbabwe to receive Iranian oil in exchange for access to the large amounts of uranium ore thought to be under its soil.

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During the visit, Mr. Ahmadinejad trumpeted solidarity with the troubled nation, slammed Western nations' "satanic pressures on the people of Zimbabwe," and predicted "humiliation and defeat for our enemies."

But that was last week.

Now, Mr. Mugabe is gearing up to host another country on former President George W. Bush's "Axis of Evil" list: North Korea

The rogue regime's national soccer team is coming to Zimbabwe May 25 to train ahead of the World Cup in neighboring South Africa.

For many Zimbabweans, however, news of the arrangement is unacceptable. After all, it was North Korea's military that trained Mugabe's notorious Fifth Brigade, which killed an estimated 20,000 people in the 1980s.

“Our position is that North Korea is not welcome in Zimbabwe," says Methuseli Moyo, spokesman for the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) party, which has threatened widespread protests timed to the team's arrival. "We are wondering why the people in the Government of National Unity are being [so] insensitive as to bring the same people who caused bloodshed and deaths to our region. They are just looking at the monetary values of this visit, but the fact of the matter is that it will reopen old wounds. There is nothing special about the North Koreans except that they are warmongers and nuclear power specialists.

“If they come here, thousands of ZAPU supporters will express themselves in any way they deem fit, even through violence," says Mr. Moyo. "For now, we will not disclose what course of action we will take, but they are not welcome.”

'Purely a sports issue?'

The North Koreans will stay two weeks until June 6, when they will move to their main World Cup base in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Zimbabwe had hoped to attract more teams ahead of the World Cup, including England, Brazil, and the United States, but only North Korea accepted the invitation of tourism minister Walter Muzembi.

Mr. Muzembi, who estimates that the team’s visit and the presence of World Cup-bound tourists could bring in $100 million, defended the North Korean team's stay.