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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Isolated Zimbabwe Quits Bloc

ABUJA, Nigeria -- Western leaders expressed dismay Monday at Zimbabwe's decision to pull out of the Commonwealth of Nations rather than endure continued suspension -- but insisted it was President Robert Mugabe, not they, who was increasing the isolation of his troubled southern African nation.

Mugabe's government made good on his threat to leave the bloc of Britain and its former colonies late Sunday, just hours after a tense 52-nation Commonwealth summit extended Zimbabwe's 18-month suspension for alleged widespread abuses of civil liberties.

"It's quits, and quits it will be," Mugabe's government declared.

In a major snub for Zimbabwe's leader, Commonwealth heads of state had rejected a push led by Zimbabwe's southern African neighbors at the summit in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, to reinstate Mugabe's government. The Commonwealth -- whose nations represent nearly one-third of the world's six billion people -- has banned Mugabe from its decision-making councils since 2002, after he was accused of using massive force and fraud to win re-election at home.

Several African and other developing nations had campaigned for reinstatement, saying dialogue, not isolation, was the way to bring change. Some accused the bloc's richer Western members of trying to impose their will.

Britain, Australia and New Zealand insisted it was Mugabe's choice to cut his nation off from the rest of the world.