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In Harare, Botswana's Mogae Downplays Perceived Cross-Border Strains

In Harare on a state visit, President Festus Mogae of Botswana pledged expanded economic cooperation between his country and Zimbabwe, dismissing "skeptics" who have discerned strains in relations between the Southern African neighbors.

Speaking at a state dinner before the opening of the Zimbabwe agricultural show, the Botswanan leader said Zimbabwe was an important trading partner, according to the state-controlled Herald newspaper's account of the event. Mr. Mogae said there has been a positive trend in cross-border investment, often involving joint ventures.

Mr. Mogae said that he hoped the two countries would soon implement agreements on investment promotion and protection, and on relieving double taxation, so as to "further enhance the prospect of win-win economic outcomes between us."

President Mogae's cordial tone was of interest to observers who have seen him as a rare African leader who is prepared to criticize President Robert Mugabe's policies to the extent that they spill over into Botswana on a steady stream of refugees.

Some concluded Mr. Mogae has moderated his tone, but parliamentary liaison officer Herman Honekom of the Africa Institute in Cape Town, South Africa, told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalye of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe he sees no change.

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