South Africa and Zimbabwe have signed an agreement to strengthen their defense and intelligence ties.

Officials from the two neighboring countries attended a signing ceremony Thursday in Cape Town.

The deal calls for the two nations to cooperate on security issues, among other areas of bilateral concern.

South Africa's intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils said the two countries would continue to maintain a strong relationship.

South African President Thabo Mbeki has defended his widely criticized policy of "quiet diplomacy" with Zimbabwe, which is facing increasing pressure from the United States and Britain.

The government of Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has been accused of human rights abuses and of crippling the country's economy, which is facing triple-digit inflation, spiraling joblessness and chronic shortages of food and fuel.

 Some information for this report provided by AP and Reuters.