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Obama Pledges $73 Million for Zimbabwe's People

President Barack Obama is promising $73 Million in U.S. aid to the people of Zimbabwe. The president made the pledge Friday, after meeting with Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in the Oval Office.

President Obama says the U.S. assistance will go directly to the people of Zimbabwe because Washington believes that President Robert Mugabe does not always act in the interest of Zimbabwe's people.

But after meeting with Prime Minister Tsvangirai, Mr. Obama told reporters there is reason for hope.

"I, obviously, have extraordinary admiration for the courage, the tenacity that the prime minister has shown in navigating through some very difficult political times in Zimbabwe," he said.

Zimbabwe has suffered through several years of rampant inflation and economic struggles. Mr. Obama praised the prime minister for working hard to overcome those problems.

The president also saluted Mr. Tsvangirai for persevering despite being harassed for his opposition to the Mugabe government. After last year's disputed elections, Mr. Mugabe invited him to join a unity government in February.

"We want to do everything we can to encourage the kinds of improvement, not only on human rights and rule of law, freedom of the press and democracy, that is so necessary, but also on the economic front," he said.

Mr. Obama said the U.S. is trying to encourage human rights and the rule of law in Zimbabwe, along with working schools, health care and an agricultural system that can help the country feed its people.

Mr. Tsvangirai expressed gratitude for Western aid to Zimbabwe, and said the country is committed to meeting international benchmarks for progress.

"We want to institute those reforms that will ensure that in 18 months' time, the people of Zimbabwe are given an opportunity to elect their own government. Yes, there has been a lot of progress made by the transitional government, but there are also problems," he said.

The U.S. and other countries accuse Mr. Mugabe of abusing human rights and destroying Zimbabwe's economy, as well as seizing commercial farms owned by whites.

Mr. Mugabe has held power in Zimbabwe since 1980.