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World Food Program Head Asks President Mugabe To Ease Restrictions On Grain Imports - 2003-01-24

The head of the United Nations World Food Program met with the President of Zimbabwe in Harare Friday, pressing him to relax his country's restrictions on grain imports.

Famine in Zimbabwe has put some seven million people at risk. Food agency head James Morris said President Robert Mugabe expressed gratitude for U-N efforts to ease the situation. Critics of Zimbabwe's government say price controls and import restrictions hamper the flow of food into the southern African country.

The Mugabe government says grain import restrictions are necessary to protect consumers and to prevent third parties from abusing food aid for political purposes.

International food agencies say famine conditions have been exacerbated by disruptions inherent in Zimbabwe's controversial land distribution, under which white-owned commercial farms were appropriated by the government to be given to black farmers.