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Zimbabwe Finance Minister Sees Major Shift In US-Zimbabwean Relations

Zimbabwe Finance Minister Tendai Biti was to head home Tuesday from Washington after a week of meetings aimed at securing funds for the country's reconstruction.

Before leaving, he told VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that he was pleased with his reception by the U.S. administration and sees the potential for a meaningful relationship.

Reporter Marvellous Mhlanga-Nyahuye caught up with Biti on the sidelines of a forum on Monday sponsored by the National Endowment For Democracy and Freedom House, and he noted a "historic" change in U.S.-Zimbabwean relations from glacial to cordial.

In Harare, meanwhile, trench warfare between Biti and Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono continued as Gono responded to calls for an audit of his institution with publication of a 20-page supplement in the state-controlled Herald newspaper addressing issues such as his recent attempted distribution of vehicles to members of parliament.

Biti told the cabinet last week that the central banker was running a parallel government through the continuation of so-called quasi-fiscal operations.

In his Herald broadside, Biti urged Zimbabweans and parliament in particular to scrutinize Biti's recently proposed 2009 budget, alleging "alien" influences.

Gono also accused Biti of being "very petty and needlessly controversial" by ordering him to surrender to the Finance Ministry the vehicles he had proposed to loan to lawmakers.

Sources in the former ruling ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe warned that Biti is playing with fire in taking aim at Gono, who he has said must be removed from office.

Biti in an interview Tuesday with VOA rejected Gono's charge that there is a foreign hand in the budget. VOA was unable to reach Gono for comment on the controversy.

Economist Godfrey Kanyenze, director of the Labor and Economic Development Institute of Zimbabwe, told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Gono is caught in a time warp as dollarization has deprived him of the power to print money.

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