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Isolated From West, Zimbabwe And Iran Propose Expanded Ties

President Robert Mugabe and senior Zimbabwean ministers, in the Iranian capital of Tehran this week for talks, agreed with their hosts to strengthen bilateral political and economic ties based on shared membership in the Non-Aligned Movement.

Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengwegwi, Energy Development Minister Michael Nyambuya and Minister of Agriculture Joseph Made accompanied Mugabe.

Harare and Tehran also share the distinction of having been designated “outposts of tyranny” by the U.S. administration. The main upshot of the visit so far is a pledge from Iran to invest in a coal-fired electric power plant in Zimbabwe. Mumbengegwi said Harare also wanted Tehran to set up auto and tractor manufacturing plants.

The Iranian news agency IRNA reported that Mr. Mugabe met with his counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, at the presidential offices. IRNA said the national anthems of both countries were played and the two leaders reviewed a guard of honor.

In commercial agreements, the Iranian news agency said Zimbabwe agreed to provide several mineral products as a means of servicing its debts to Tehran. Representatives also agreed to "increase cooperation" on air transport between the countries.

IRNA said Iranian experts would visit Harare shortly to carry out feasibility studies on building an oil refinery and a medical center in the Zimbabwean capital.

Henry Muradzikwa, recently named chief of Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings, was in Tehran too. Sources at the state radio and television monopoly told said Muradzikwa would advance an existing deal for a technical upgrade and for cultural exchanges.

One observer said Iran has relatively little to offer Zimbabwe insofar as technology is concerned. Economist John Robertson said that the main attraction of Tehran is that it is one of the few world capitals still willing to receive president Mugabe.

Bulawayo-based economist Eric Bloch told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the Iranian power-plant deal was an exercise in futility.

In political terms, the reinforcement of ties between Harare and Tehran does not bode positively for the Zimbabwean people, commented Politically, said program officer Dewa Mavhinga of the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development.

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