Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe Tuesday dismissed US calls for him to quit as "stupid," saying they represented "the last kicks of a dying horse" as George W Bush prepares to leave office.
Speaking to supporters at a funeral, Mugabe again hit back at growing pressure from Western powers for him to step down, as UNICEF warned that a cholera death toll had risen to nearly 1,200 lives and was not yet in control.
"Only two days ago, the American administration declared that they are no longer accepting the process of an inclusive government. The inclusive government does not include Mr Bush and his administration," Mugabe said at the burial for a party faithful.
"Let him keep his comments to himself. They are undeserved, irrelevant, quite stupid and foolish."
Mugabe's comments came two days after the top United States envoy for Africa, Jendayi Frazer, said the Bush administration had lost confidence in the power-sharing pact between Mugabe and the opposition.
The 84-year-old described the latest U.S. criticism, which followed earlier calls from President Bush for him to step down, as "the last kicks of a dying horse."
"We obviously are not going to pay attention to a sunset administration. Zimbabwe's fate lies in the hands of Zimbabweans," he said, days after telling supporters that "Zimbabwe is mine."
Following a warning from UN experts that half of Zimbabwe's population needs food aid and that the country's health system had collapsed, UNICEF said Tuesday the cholera deaths had risen to 1,174.
"The disease... is still not under control," UNICEF's representative in Zimbabwe, Roeland Monasch, told a press conference in Geneva by telephone.
The state-owned Herald newspaper on Tuesday put the cholera deaths at "at least 750."
Cholera is the latest crisis to hit Zimbabwe, ruled by Mugabe since 1980, with several Western powers pushing for him to go, saying his refusal to fulfill a September power-sharing deal with the opposition is leaving the country in ruins.
On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that Washington would consult its allies on the imposition of international asset freezes and other sanctions against his government.
Speaking in South Africa on Sunday, Frazer said the deal could not work with Mugabe as president, calling the veteran leader "completely discredited".
"We have lost confidence in the power-sharing deal being a success with Mugabe in power. He has lost touch with reality," she said.
Mugabe was quoted in the state-run paper on Tuesday as describing Frazer as a "little girl" who was out of touch with reality in Zimbabwe and the rest of the world.
"She thinks that Africans are idiots, little kids who cannot think for themselves," Mugabe was quoted as telling the ZANU-PF annual conference at the weekend.
Harare also hit out at the British government, which has called on Mugabe to go.
Mugabe's spokesman George Charamba said that Gordon Brown's administration was also on its way out in Britain and that the prime minister was trying to gain relevance back home through "posturing" on Zimbabwe, the newspaper said.
Zimbabwe has been in political crisis since elections in March when the long-ruling ZANU-PF party lost control of parliament and Mugabe was pushed into second place by opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in the presidential vote.
Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, pulled out of a run-off after scores of his supporters were killed.© Wire reports