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Southern Africa: IRIN News Briefs, 16 February

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ZIMBABWE: British minister calls for reform
Britain has said that Zimbabwe must face up to the need for democratic reform and economic recovery. Writing in the London 'Financial Times', British Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain said: "Tuesday's overwhelming victory for the 'No' camp in a flawed referendum demonstrated a deep dissatisfaction with the government over this and other issues."

Hain said President Robert Mugabe now had the opportunity to unite the country around a programme of reform and recovery. "I appeal to Mr Mugabe not to miss this moment and to face these challenges head on. This is a time for strong political leadership in Zimbabwe. Without this Zimbabwe could well fall over the edge of the abyss," Hain said.

Hain said that international donors and financial institutions were ready to help the Zimbabwean government to turn the economy around. But he cautioned that this would only happen if there was a real commitment to sound economic policies of modernisation and privatisation of state-owned enterprises. He said that the upcoming elections were an opportunity for the government to show its commitment to reform and recovery.

SOUTH AFRICA-DRC: Mandela calls for US involvement

Former South African president Nelson Mandela has called for the participation of the United States in a UN peacekeeping mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

"The United States is already helping but they can make available more help," Mandela said after meeting visiting US Defence Secretary William Cohen. "Without the participation of the United States, it's going to be very difficult for us to make progress," Mandela said.

Cohen said Washington would not provide combat troops or peacekeepers to the DRC, but could offer support in areas such as logistics, communications and intelligence.

SOUTH AFRICA: Minister denies loan to Zimbabwe

South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has denied news reports this week that South Africa has given Zimbabwe a loan of about US $126 million.

"At the moment no loan to Zimbabwe has been made," Dlamini-Zuma told journalists. "The agreement we reached was that the relevant ministers will go into in-depth discussion with their counterparts and see what can be done."

ZAMBIA: US pledge for refugees

The United States government has given US $300,000 for refugee relief efforts in Zambia, the US embassy in Lusaka said.

The embassy said that the money would be distributed through the International Red Cross. Zambia currently hosts about 200,000 refugees from neighbouring countries.

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