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SADC Leaders Suspend Madagascar, Pledge Economic Support for Zimbabwe


Southern African leaders suspended Madagascar on Monday for what they call an unconstitutional change of government earlier this month. And they have pledged financial support for Zimbabwe's economic recovery plan. VOA reports from the site of the summit in Ezulwini, outside Mbanane.

Leaders of the Southern African Development Community, or SADC, said they were suspending Madagascar from their organization's institutions and called on its new president, Andry Rajoelina, to step down.

Marc Ravalomanana resigned under pressure two weeks ago and the military handed power to opposition leader Andry Rajoelina who was then installed as head of a transitional authority.

The African Union said the transfer was unconstitutional and western governments agreed. Many of them have suspended non-humanitarian aid to the island nation.

The SADC leaders also expressed support for an economic recovery plan drafted by Zimbabwe's new government of national unity.

Zimbabwe's Finance Minister, Tendai Biti, expressed satisfaction with the meeting.

"SADC, we are very happy. SADC does not have the economies that can sustain a $1 billion budget. But it is the quality of the giving vis-à-vis the size of their economies. If the bigger economies were to do so [i.e. do the same] in percentage terms, then we wouldn't have a problem."

Biti said his government needs $2 billion in emergency funds to jump start Zimbabwe's ailing economy and revive social services.

He said the government has made great strides in its few weeks of existence, but acknowledged that SADC leaders are demanding more.

"The key benchmark is around issues, around the rule of law and governance, around liberalizing the media," he said. "We accepted that and, of course, full implementation of the global political agreement. We still have a number of issues still outstanding. So those are issues we need to deal with and the SADC summit was very clear on those."

But Biti said his government must also deal with immediate needs, such as feeding its people.

The summit was opened by Swaziland's King Mswati III who told delegates that the new power sharing government in Zimbabwe had eased political tensions and that its greatest challenge now was economic recovery.

"We continue to be happily impressed by the progress made in the formation and operationalization of the inclusive government," said Mswati III. "We are already witnessing the first fruits of Zimbabwean unity."

But the king said Zimbabwe's economic recovery plan cannot be implemented successfully as long as economic sanctions continue against the country.

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