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Swedish PM Says Zimbabwe Democracy Will Be European Union Priority

Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai met Tuesday with his Swedish counterpart, Fredrik Reinfeldt, who said democracy in Zimbabwe will be a priority for the European Union when his country assumes the leadership of the 27-member bloc next month.

Speaking Tuesday at a joint news conference with Mr Tsvangirai in Stockholm, Mr. Reinfeldt said that he saw some positive signs in Harare, but stopped short of offering much-needed budgetary support for the unity government formed by Mr. Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe in February. He urged further political and economic reforms.

Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged US$35 million to help Zimbabwe. U.S. President Barack Obama said Friday that the US government would provide US$73 million for humanitarian purposes and the restoration of the health and education systems. The funds will be channeled through non-governmental organizations, he specified.

But this arrangement has created a backlash in Harare with ZANU-PF hardliners accusing the prime minister of indirectly channeling funds to his Movement for Democratic Change party, saying NGOs likely to receive such funds are aligned with the MDC.

State meanwhile charged that Mr. Tsvangirai had failed to carry out his brief from President Mugabe to lobby for Western targeted sanctions on him and associates to be lifted.

The state-controlled Herald newspaper mocked Mr. Tsvangirai on Saturday saying he had "hit another brick wall" after failing to secure direct budget support from Washington.

State media did not broadcast or publish photos of Mr. Tsvangirai's meeting with Obama. The MDC Tuesday issued a statement calling official media reports "mischievous," adding that the party was not responsible for negative international perceptions of Zimbabwe.

Mr. Tsvangirai himself denied reports Mugabe had dispatched him, saying his three-week tour of Western capitals was undertaken at his own initiative.

Tsvangirai spokesman James Maridadi told reporter Ntungamili Nkomo of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the prime minister's trip to Sweden is significant because Stockholm will assume the rotating EU presidency next month.

Tsvangirai has been touring Europe and the United States in a bid to woo financial support for his unity government. But donors countries who accuse his partner Mr. Mugabe of years of misrule have said they will only provide direct assistance to the unity government in Harare once it has clearly reformed on human rights and the rule of law.

Political analyst John Makumbe of the University of Zimbabwe told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that re-engaging the EU must be a top priority for Harare.

More news from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...