LONDON, April 23 (Reuters) - Britain's Foreign Office on Sunday denied media reports it had failed to heed warnings that violence in Zimbabwe over land claims would lead to a bloodbath.
The Sunday Times said a letter to Queen Elizabeth in January from black Zimbabwean war veterans warned about "clashes against commercial farmers which, if Her Majesty's government does not take heed, will later be misinterpreted as being racial".
"We can see another short-lived bloodbath coming up very soon," the paper quoted the letter as saying.
The Foreign Office said it had taken note of rising tensions but put the onus on authorities in the southern African country, a former British colony, to maintain law and order.
"That is why we stressed over and over again to the Zimbabwean government the need for them to act within the rule of law," a Foreign Office spokesman said. "We stressed over and over again that British support is available for a fair land reform programme."
Fired by government support, groups led by veterans of the independence war have taken over hundreds of white-owned farms, seizing land they say was stolen by British colonisers.
A black farm foreman, a policeman and two white farmers have been killed since the farm invasions began in February. Three others have died in violence ahead of an election due by August.
Many farmers and their families have quit their land.
Police moved onto occupied farms to help farmers on Saturday in the first sign of a possible turnaround in the crisis, despite more farm attacks and a small bomb blast in Harare near the offices of a newspaper critical of President Robert Mugabe. - Reuters