France pledges food aid to Zimbabwe

HARARE, Jul 14, 2005 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- France pledged Thursday to assist Zimbabwe with food aid following last season's drought in that country that has left more than a million in need of food assistance.

"We know that this country is going through some hardships related to its food situation," France Ambassador to Zimbabwe Michel Raimbud said on the occasion to mark his country's national day.

"France has decided to grant emergency food aid that will be channeled through the World Food Program," said Raimbud.

Zimbabwe suffered a mid-season drought which reduced the country's maize harvest to 800,000 tons against a national requirement of 1.5 million tons.

The government has already secured from South Africa 1.2 million tons which have been distributed to the provinces while the national grain procurer, the Grain Marketing Board is also importing 600,000 tons to build strategic reserves.

In response to the Ambassador Raimbud's pronouncements, Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Obert Matshalaga, said the Zimbabwe would appreciate the aid.

He said France and other friends of the country had contributed immensely to the southern African nation's development since independence.

"We appreciate the efforts by France and other friends for their efforts in re-engaging our government for the benefit of our people."

"We hope that we will continue to work together to strengthen the good relations between the two countries," he said.

He said great strides had been made by France in helping the country reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS, which claims the lives of an estimated 3000 people a week.

Meanwhile, Ambassador Raimbud called on developed countries to devote more resources toward the development of the African continent.

He said Africa must be prioritized when issues of development were discussed.

"The so called rich countries should devote a more important part of their gross national income for this purpose."

"Our plea is in favor of innovating financing for development," he said.

France would continue to establish and strengthen its relationship with African countries that were ready to accept partnership, he said.

Turning to the United Nations, Ambassador Raimbud said there was need for the group of nations to be more democratic and reflect the diversity of the world.

"We think that concerns of representation and prestige should not overshadow other issues as important as development, the environment or human rights," he said.