UK offers £36m for land reform

Straw offers £36m for Zimbabwe land reform

The Telegraph UK By Anton La Guardia, Diplomatic Editor

6 September 2001

BRITAIN will renew its offer of millions of pounds to help pay for land reform in Zimbabwe when Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, meets his Zimbabwean counterpart today.

Ahead of a tense meeting in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, senior officials warned that intransigence by Zimbabwe could provoke tougher action by the Commonwealth.

Mr Straw said he will make clear that Britain's offer of £36 million, made last year, is still on the table on condition that it is carried out with "transparency, respect for the law, poverty reduction, affordability and consistency with Zimbabwe's wider economic interests".

The meeting of Commonwealth ministers is part of an intense diplomatic effort to avoid a damaging split at next month's summit of Commonwealth leaders in Brisbane. A diplomat said: "The question of suspending Zimbabwe has been in the air for some time, but there has been no consensus until now. Abuja could be the trigger."

Five southern African presidents will visit Zimbabwe next week to discuss the crisis with President Mugabe. Zimbabwe wants the Abuja talks to deal exclusively with demands that Britain pay for the acquisition of white-owned farms.

Britain insists the meeting must also address the breakdown of law and political violence against Mr Mugabe's opponents. Zimbabwe also announced that it had accepted an offer of 2.5 million acres of land from white farmers to resettle 20,000 black families.

But vice-president Joseph Msika said most of the 531 farms were already earmarked for acquisition under the fast-track resettlement programme and the government was still determined to seize about 5,000 farms.

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