HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) -- President Robert Mugabe defended a law requiring Zimbabwean businesses to be controlled by blacks, underlining differences with his governing partners in an interview Saturday.
Mugabe's governing partner, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change, has said the law is unworkable and will discourage much-needed investment. The law was passed by parliament when it was still dominated by Mugabe's lawmakers in 2008 is set to go into effect March 1.
Ideological differences and what Tsvangirai's party and rights watchdogs call Mugabe's unwillingness to share real power have bedeviled the coalition that took office last February.
"We differ ideologically, but we say let the people of the country own what is rightfully theirs," Mugabe said on national television Saturday in a 90-minute interview marking his 86th birthday, which is Sunday.
South Africa and other neighbors pressed Zimbabwe's leaders to form the coalition and work together to resolve the country's political and economic crises after a series of inconclusive elections marred by violence that was blamed on Mugabe's supporters. In a review of the first year, Human Rights Watch said Mugabe's ZANU-PF party was still attacking and intimidating opponents and journalists and using state-owned media to manipulate public opinion. Human Rights Watch called power-sharing in Zimbabwe a "sham."
Mugabe links his country's economic meltdown on Western travel and financial restrictions on his loyalists and companies linked to his party. Others blame the often violent seizures of thousands of white-owned farms that Mugabe ordered beginning in 2000 and which have disrupted the agriculture-based economy.
In Saturday's interview, Mugabe demanded that the Movement for Democratic Change campaign among its Western backers for sanctions to be lifted.
Earlier this month, the European Union said its targeted sanctions would remain in place another year because of lack of progress by the unity government.
Friday, the International Monetary Fund restored Zimbabwe's voting rights after a seven-year suspension over failure to pay $1.3 billion it owes the organization and other creditors. The move was in response to a request by Finance Minister Tendai Biti, who is a member of Tsvangirai's party, and allows Zimbabwe to receive advice from the fund in special areas such as stabilizing the banking system, taxation policies and budgeting.
"The West always comes where they are not wanted. Because they are White they think they are entitled to interfere in our system. We must rebuff them," Mugabe said.
Mugabe, known as an ascetic teetotaler, said he would celebrate his birthday Sunday with a glass of water.
"Drinking alcohol is ruinous and I am glad not so many of our people take to alcohol," he said.
A private gathering is planned Sunday with a lavish birthday gala in the second city of Bulawayo the following weekend, state media reported.