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Zimbabwe Must Settle Multilateral Arrears Before Getting New Loans - IMF Official

A senior official of the International Monetary Fund on Tuesday dashed hopes of early IMF aid to Zimbabwe's reconstruction raised by a report in a state-run newspaper, saying the country must clear outstanding arrears of nearly US$140 million before getting any new loans.

IMF Africa Director Antoinette Sayeh dismissed a report in Harare's Herald newspaper that the lender of last resort could be funding Zimbabwe’s economic recovery in short order. She was speaking to Reuters on the sidelines of a summit in Tanzania looking at the impact of the international financial and economic crisis on African countries.

In addition, the minister cited by the Herald said the newspaper misquoted him.

Delegations from the IMF, the World Bank and the African Development Bank arrived in Harare this week to open talks with officials of the recently installed unity government.

"The Fund is not in a position to disburse resources to Zimbabwe...because Zimbabwe is in arrears," Sayeh told Reuters.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti also voiced concern that Harare’s policies have not changed much and this will make it difficult to get fresh funding.

President Robert Mugabe has differed sharply with the IMF in the past over its policy prescriptions, saying it imposed excessively harsh conditions. Zimbabwe’s rights as an IMF member have been restricted due to its debt arrears and economic policies.

Economic Planning Minister Elton Mangoma told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that it is too early to say what the IMF will do for Zimbabwe.

He said the Herald had misquoted him as saying the IMF would help "immediately."

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