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Zimbabwe Finance Minister Renews Call for International Aid

Zimbabwe Finance Minister Tendai Biti has renewed a call for international aid to help revive the country's ailing economy.

Biti, who is a member of the country's new unity government, says Zimbabwe needs more than $8.5 billion to halt inflation and rebuild the country's infrastructure.

He said Wednesday that some African and European banks have agreed to extend lines of credit to Zimbabwe's banking sector and that South Africa has also promised to provide aid. But he said more is needed.

The U.S. envoy to Zimbabwe, James McGee, told VOA Wednesday that Zimbabwe has made progress, but not enough for Washington to finance the country's economic recovery. He said trust has been re-established between Washington and Zimbabwe, but that the United States must be able to verify that any funding it provides will be spent where it is needed.

Zimbabwe's economy is in ruins following years of declining farm output and soaring inflation. The country is also grappling with food shortages, unemployment of over 90 percent, and a breakdown of its health care system.

Zimbabwe's new power-sharing government recently launched an effort to revive the shattered economy.

In other developments Wednesday, the World Food Program said the humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe has improved because of the start of the annual harvest.

The U.N. agency says Zimbabwe's decision to peg its currency to the U.S. dollar and the South African rand also has made more food available in the markets.