Robert Mugabe blames west for downfall of autocrats in Arab spring


, the president of Zimbabwe, has expressed sympathy with autocrats toppled in the Arab spring, blaming their downfall on the "machinations of the imperialists".

Africa's oldest leader reportedly warned that western powers could also target . "We must remain prepared to defend our country and sovereignty," he said.

"We have had good relations with those Arab countries in trouble today," Mugabe, 87, was quoted as saying , in a report attributed to Deutsche Press-Agentur.

"We have sympathy with them because they did not read warnings that they should have read. That things were changing because of the wishes of their people, and because of machinations of the imperialists."

Addressing senior members of his Zanu-PF party in Harare, Mugabe continued: "The pattern has been the same … Protests against some political measure or system or wanting change. It ends up being a demand for the entire government to go."

The president, in power for 31 years, said Zimbabwe must be sensitive to this year's events in , Egypt, Syria and Libya, where western powers pretended "to be following the grievances of the protesters", but were motivated by hunger for natural resources.

Zimbabwe has refused to recognise the National Transitional Council and swiftly to Harare when he defected from Muammar Gaddafi's fold to the new authority.

Despite this year's turmoil, there has been little sign of an uprising in Zimbabwe. In February, after holding a meeting and viewing videos from the revolution in Egypt. They are standing trial on lesser charges of threatening to incite public violence but still face a jail sentence of 10 years.

Mugabe, resentful of a power-sharing deal with the Movement for Democratic Change, has been pushing for fresh elections next year. But he admitted: "I am sorry we have not been in control of the mechanisms; mechanisms that we thought would lay the road to an election this year in terms of our decision taken at our last conference in Mutare (last December). The constitution-making process has been moving at a tortoise's pace."

The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams is due to arrive in Zimbabwe this weekend with the president.