Robert Mugabe must respect human rights, France tells Tsvangirai

PARIS (AFP) — French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner on Thursday reminded Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai of the need to respect human rights and to have a free media in the shattered African state.

"The international community remains concerned about the rule of law in Zimbabwe" and about the areas of security, media freedom and respect for private property, Kouchner told the visiting prime minister.

Tsvangirai was in Paris on the latest leg of a tour that has taken him to London, Washington, Berlin, Stockholm and Brussels to try to drum up support for the "new" Zimbabwe.

Amnesty International said this week that Zimbabwe was suffering "persistent and serious" human rights violations despite the new unity government featuring Tsvangirai and his one-time bitter enemy President Robert Mugabe.

Tsvangirai told Kouchner during their meeting at an official lunch here that "Zimbabwe is changing."

"After four months we have peace and stability. There is progress and I would be the last one to say everything is rosy. The concern you have is accepted, is a legitimate concern. The media are going to reopen," he said.

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

With the shattered economy just turning a corner, Tsvangirai embarked on his tour of foreign capitals looking for aid to help Zimbabwe emerge from years of chaos that saw rampant inflation and forced many Zimbabweans to flee.