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Zimbabwe Police Turn Back Protesters


Riot police in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, have broken up two separate protests over the dismal state of public health and the economy.

Witnesses say police drove off a group of doctors and nurses protesting in front of Zimbabwe's Health Ministry Wednesday.

In the other incident, police using batons beat union members as they demonstrated against tight restrictions on cash withdrawals. The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions says at least 50 union members were arrested, including the group's leader, Wellington Chibebe.

Zimbabwe is mired in a deep economic crisis, marked by extreme inflation and chronic shortages of everything from food to fuel to cash. The country is also dealing with an outbreak of cholera. The United Nations said Wednesday that the epidemic has killed 565 people.

Zimbabwe's state-run Herald newspaper said that individuals will now be allowed to withdraw up to $100 million (Zimbabwe dollars) per week from their bank accounts.

In another indication of drastic inflation, the Herald reports the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe will begin circulating three new banknotes - worth $10, $50 and $100 million (Zimbabwe dollars) - on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the government says it will punish rogue soldiers who loot stores and attack civilians. Earlier this week, police clashed with about 100 soldiers who went on a looting spree in Harare.

The Herald says the soldiers had been unable to withdraw money from the country's cash-strapped banks. The paper quotes Zimbabwe's defense minister as warning that anyone who tries to incite the armed forces to riot will be held accountable.

Conditions in Zimbabwe have deteriorated as the country's political crisis drags on. Power-sharing talks between President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai have been stalled for months.

Mr. Mugabe blames Zimbabwe's problems on Western sanctions against his government. But critics say Mr. Mugabe has destroyed the country through reckless policies and mismanagement during his nearly 30-year rule.


Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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