US wants to back Zimbabwe – Clinton

Washington – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai here on Thursday that the United States is looking for ways to "appropriately" back his tense unity government.

Clinton warmly welcomed Tsvangirai, who shares power with an internationally reviled President Robert Mugabe, as a "long-time advocate for his country and the people of Zimbabwe on behalf of human rights and economic opportunity…

"He is now in a unified government that is attempting to move Zimbabwe forward into a better future…", the chief US diplomat said as she stood before the cameras with the former opposition leader.

"And I’m anxious to hear about the plans and the work that your government is undertaking, and to look for ways that we appropriately can be supportive," Clinton said.

Tsvangirai is on an international tour looking for assistance as his country seeks to emerge from years of economic chaos, which has seen rampant inflation and forced many Zimbabweans to flee the country.

In a television interview last month, Clinton said Mugabe’s departure would be in "the best interests of everyone" and that the United States would not resume aid to the Zimbabwean government as long as it could not be sure it would reach the people concerned.

In contrast with Mugabe

Tsvangirai’s welcome abroad contrasts with the international chill towards Mugabe.

Both the European Union and the United States maintain a travel ban and asset freeze on Mugabe, his wife and inner circle in protest at controversial elections and alleged human rights abuses by his government.

Mugabe and his rival Tsvangirai on February 11 formed a power-sharing government tasked with steering Zimbabwe back to stability after disputed elections last year plunged the country into crisis.

Relations within the government remain tense.

Under the fledgling government’s watch, more than $800m in credit lines have been secured to rebuild the shattered economy, and the International Monetary Fund has said it will resume technical aid to Harare.

But that is still a fraction of the $8.5bn the government says it needs, and private firms say they want more guarantees that the rule of law will be respected before they invest.

In the May interview with South African state television, Clinton recognized Mugabe’s "historic contribution" to ending colonialism and oppression by helping the former Rhodesia gain independence from Britain in 1980.

"But for whatever reason, the last years of his rule have hurt so many of his people," she said.

Clinton’s talks with Tsvangirai precede those at the White House on Friday with President Barack Obama.

 

– AFP