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Britain, IMF Dispatching Teams to Zimbabwe for Dialogue, Technical Aid

The British government is dispatching a team of diplomats to Harare to take a closer look at the unity government and explore prospects for a renewed bilateral dialogue.

A Foreign Office spokesman said the team, led by Foreign and Commonwealth Office Africa Director Adam Wood, would arrive in Harare some time next week.

The visit follows talks in Pretoria on the weekend between British Minister of State for Africa Mark Malloch-Brown, attending the inauguration of South African President Jacob Zuma, and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai with Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi.

Relations between Zimbabwe and Britain have been far from cordial and at times bitter over the past decade with London criticizing the economic policies and human rights record of President Robert Mugabe, who accused Britain of neo-colonialist ambitions.

London-based political analyst Dewa Mavhinga told reporter Sandra Nyaira of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the visit could initiate a serious bilateral rapprochement.

The International Monetary Fund is also sending a team to Zimbabwe next week to follow through on an offer of technical assistance made earlier this month.

The five-person team will be looking at payments systems, central bank management and other key aspects of Zimbabwe's fiscal operations and financial system.

Though the IMF lifted a suspension on technical assistance two weeks ago, the country is still barred from receiving new credits until it has cleared its arrears to multilateral lenders totaling more than US$1.2 billion to the IMF, World Bank and African Development Bank.

Economist Prosper Chitambara of the Labor and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that the IMF visit is welcome but added that it will take more than two weeks of IMF technical assistance to repair the economy.

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