Friday, May 15, 2009

(TALKZIMBABWE) Zimbabwe, Britain in talks

Zimbabwe, Britain in talks
Ralph Mutema
Thu, 14 May 2009 02:32:00 +0000

THE British Government is dispatching a team of diplomats to Harare to hold talks with the country's inclusive Government leaders and explore prospects for a renewed bilateral dialogue.

A Foreign Office spokesman said the team, led by Foreign and Commonwealth Office Director Adam Wood, would arrive in Harare some time next week.

The visit follows talks in Pretoria on the weekend between British Minister of State for Africa Mark Malloch-Brown, attending the inauguration of South African President Jacob Zuma, and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai with Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi.

It was the first high-level political meeting between the two governments since the inauguration in mid-February of Zimbabwe's inclusive Government between President Robert Mugabe's Zanu PF party and Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change.

Observers said the meeting marked a significant rapprochement between London and Harare.

A statement from the Zimbabwe Embassy in Pretoria said the ministers had held "a frank exchange of views" and had "committed themselves to continue dialogue in an effort to normalise relations between Zimbabwe and the UK".

Malloch-Brown said that he "welcomed areas of progress" following the establishment of the inclusive Government, but added: "I also underline the need for further reform," and that "progress is needed... before the UK and the international community as a whole can engage more fully".

Britain and most other Western governments have been providing humanitarian aid to Harare, but are demanding that major human rights and political reforms need to be undertaken before they can provide direct government aid.

Relations between Zimbabwe and Britain have been far from cordial and at times bitter over the past decade with London criticizing the economic policies and human rights record of President Robert Mugabe, who accused Britain of neo-colonialist ambitions.

The International Monetary Fund is also sending a team to Zimbabwe next week to follow through on an offer of technical assistance made earlier this month.

The five-person team will be looking at payments systems, central bank management and other key aspects of Zimbabwe's fiscal operations and financial system.

Though the IMF lifted a suspension on technical assistance two weeks ago, the country is still barred from receiving new credits until it has cleared its arrears to multilateral lenders totaling more than US$1.2 billion to the IMF, World Bank and African Development Bank.

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