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Zimbabwe PM Tsvangirai Seeks South African Funding; Pretoria Encouraging

Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his finance minister, Tendai Biti, met Friday with South African President Kgalema Motlanthe and his own finance chief, Trevor Manuel, in a high-profile meeting in which Mr. Tsvangirai sought as much as 10 billion rand - about US$1 billion - in emergency economic stabilization and reconstruction funding.

Mr. Tsvangirai and his delegation appeared to be well-received in Cape Town, venue for the meeting, and a follow-up meeting was scheduled between Biti and Manual with participation by the African Development Bank, which reports said would be called upon to seek wider international participation and to structure the funding package.

President Motlanthe confirmed the forthcoming working meeting, urging that Western sanctions on Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his inner circle be lifted and that the international community fully involve itself in the reconstruction of Zimbabwe.

Despite the appeal for a loan denominated in South African rand, Mr. Tsvangirai said his country will continue to use a mix of currencies including the U.S. dollar, the rand and the Zimbabwe dollar as his unity government’s economic initiatives are launched.

In a news conference, Mr. Tsvangirai took up the question of political prisoners including Roy Bennett, his designate as deputy agriculture minister. Bennett had been held by police for a week on weapons and other charges and remains in jail in Mutare, Zimbabwe.

Mr. Tsvangirai hinted that an agreement has been reached to at least free Bennett and others considered political prisoners pending disposition of their cases.

For perspective on this economic bailout, VOA's Blessing Zulu turned to economist John Robertson, who says the funds should be used to replace the battered Zimbabwe dollar.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...