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Zimbabwe Finance Minister Biti Voices Satisfaction at Washington Contacts

Zimbabwean Finance Minister Tendai Biti expressed satisfaction Monday after meeting various officials of the U.S. administration of President Barack Obama, contrasting such contacts with the chilly relationship that has prevailed between Harare and Washington for years.

Addressing a forum organized by the National Endowment for Democracy, said he hoped that his meetings with State Department, National Security Council and Treasury officials would eventually produce results in terms of bilateral cooperation and assistance.

U.S. officials have repeatedly stated that Washington will not extend aid beyond humanitarian assistance to development or reconstruction funding until there is clear evidence Harare has undertaken meaningful reform on human rights, the rule of law and other issues.

In an interview with VOA following his presentation at the forum co-sponsored by Freedom House, Biti acknowledged that despite the warm reception he had received from the Obama administration, certain "toxic" issues remain to be resolved in Harare if it is to receive the full attention and level of assistance the national unity government there is seeking.

Biti told reporter Marvellous Mhlanga-Nyahuye that he will return to Zimbabwe a happy man as he sees the potential for expanded international engagement in future.

Biti was scheduled to depart for Zimbabwe on Tuesday.

IMF Africa Department Director Antoinette Sayeh told reporters Saturday that the lender of last resort was satisfied with the progress made by the unity government and intended to offer “small, technical assistance" to Harare, encouraging other donors to do likewise.

Though funding did not appear to be in the offing, Sayeh told reporters there is a “window of opportunity in Zimbabwe that is worthy of support by the international community.”

She said the International Monetary Fund board would take up the case of Zimbabwe on May 4 based on the report submitted by a mission sent to the country recently to assess the state of the economy and the new government's policies and plans.

African Development Bank President Donald Kaberuka told reporters there are “many things to be done” before Zimbabwe can fully re-engage with international lenders.

His comments Sunday dashed speculation that the African multilateral financial institution might provide a bridge loan for Harare to pay down its IMF debt arrears.

From Harare, Zimbabwean economist and consultant Luxon Zembe told reporter Brenda Moyo of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that IMF technical assistance will be useful – but what Zimbabwe most needs at this point is an injection of cash.

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