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Zimbabwean Government Plans Charm Offensive In Europe Seeking Aid

Officials of the national unity government that has been in power in Zimbabwe for one month now say they will be reaching out to Western governments, particularly in Europe, to request expanded development aid to stabilize the economy and meet urgent social needs.

The initiative by the government of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, co-executive with head of state President Robert Mugabe, follows the announcement by Australia that it will widen aid to Harare beyond the purely humanitarian domain, breaking ranks with the United States and Britain which have said provision of development aid hinges on clear evidence of reform.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said Canberra wants to "support efforts by [Tsvangirai] to bring sustainable and long-term improvements to the lives of Zimbabweans."

Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete on Thursday urged the international community to take a larger financial role in helping the Harare government reconstruct the country.

Finance Ministry sources told VOA that the country needs some US$100 million a month to meet operational expenses, half of that for payroll, with receipts a mere US$10 million.

They added that the ministries of health and education need infusions of US$700 million and US$450 million, respectively, to return operations to a normal level.

Government sources said ministers have approached U.S. Ambassador James McGee and European envoys asking that their governments lift sanctions against the president, his inner circle and firms considered to have supported to Mr. Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party.

International relations expert David Monyae told VOA reporter Blessing Zulu that Harare must implement wide and deep reform to be welcomed back into the fold.

In Washington, meanwhile, U.S. State Department Acting Spokesman Robert Wood said the American position has not changed – Harare must meet international standards on human rights and the rule of law, among other points, and institute broad economic reforms for the U.S. government to consider development as opposed to humanitarian aid.

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