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President Obama Praises Zimbabwe's Tsvangirai, Pledges $73 Million Aid

Culminating a five-day visit to the United States, Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai met on Friday with U.S. President Barack Obama who praised the former opposition leader's leadership and courage and pledged $73 million to help the Zimbabwean people.

"The United States is a friend to the people of Zimbabwe," Mr. Obama said.

"I've committed $73 million in assistance to Zimbabwe. It will not be going through the government directly, because we continue to be concerned about consolidating democracy, human rights and rule of law, but it will be going directly to the people of Zimbabwe and I think can be of assistance to the prime minister in his efforts," Mr. Obama said.

"He's going to continue to provide us with direction in ways that he thinks we can be helpful, and I'm grateful to him for his leadership, for his courage, and I'm looking forward to being a partner with him in the years to come," the U.S. president said.

Mr. Tsvangirai in turn told reporters that he had told Mr. Obama that his country "is coming out of a political conflict and economic collapse...and that the new political dispensation we have crafted is an attempt to arrest this decay" through a transitional arrangement.

"We want to institute those reforms that will ensure that in 18 months time the people of Zimbabwe are given an opportunity to elect their own government," Mr. Tsvangirai said.

On Thursday U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Mr. Tsvangirai that Washington will seek ways to “appropriately” support Harare. Also Thursday, he received expressions of support from the U.S. Congress for his efforts to restore democracy and rights.

A senate resolution passed on Tuesday said U.S. aid should be expanded in such a way as to channel resources to the non-governmental sector to pay the salaries of qualified people working in education, health care, water supply and sanitation in Zimbabwe.

Mr. Tsvangirai met Thursday with members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee whose Africa subcommittee chairman, Donald Payne, told VOA Capitol Hill correspondent Dan Robinson that selectively increased support for Zimbabwe is in order.

Mr. Tsvangirai is to travel on to Germany, France and other European countries to continue diplomatic re-engagement and make the case for transitional support to Harare.

Though U.S. officials made clear there will be no lifting of targeted sanctions against members of the former government and its backers without major reform on rights and the rule of law, Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi, a ZANU-PF member who was accompanying Mr. Tsvangirai, told VOA reporter Blessing Zulu that sanctions must be lifted.

Howard University political scientist Sulyman Nyang said the U.S. has adopted a "good cop, bad cop" approach to Zimbabwe consisting of increased assistance to the population while maintaining sanctions against President Robert Mugabe and those closest to him.

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