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11/06/2009 00:00:00
Big State...Tsvangirai enjoys a warm welcome from Clinton

PRIME Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has been left fuming on a major foreign trip after a cabinet minister and senior member of his MDC party claimed senior officials were being targeted for assassinations by President Robert Mugabe’s militias.

Sekai Holland, the Minister of National Healing and National Reconciliation told the BBC 39,000 militias were being paid US$100 each EVERYDAY to unleash violence on MDC officials when elections are held – likely in FIVE YEARS. That equates to US$3,9 million a day – all allegedly paid out of the cash-strapped government’s coffers.

"We are told that they do have a list of people that they will kill," Holland told reporter Mike Thomson. "No-one feels safe in Zimbabwe, no-one, and I mean no-one. We haven't reached a ceasefire. We are still at a point where people have their guns cocked."

The PM’s furious aides, concerned her comments may jeopardise his efforts to unlock financial aid from western countries and raise tensions in the unity government, asked Holland to clarify her comments.

But she claimed, according to one official, that she had been misquoted; that the interview was done “months ago” and that the BBC journalist had misrepresented himself to her.

Her interview with the journalist was posted on the BBC website on Wednesday and immediately seized-on by international news wires.

Now backpedalling furiously, she told reporters on Thursday: “I’m really quite surprised by this story. These people came here three months ago and said they are with an NGO in the UK and they were looking at the situation to fundraise for children, so we were talking as if we were talking with the NGO for children.

“Then we explained the things which were going well and the things which we have achieved so they said what are the things you think need to be improved on – so we had just started talking about the rumours that were current at that time. So the story as far as I can see is about the negative things which we said and nothing about the good things which we said, nothing.”

That will do little to appease the Prime Minister who has been carefully trying to nurture an uneasy truce with President Robert Mugabe, his long-time rival now a ruling coalition partner.

Tsvangirai met US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington D.C on Thursday, and meets President Obama on Friday before travelling to Germany on Monday and England later next week.

Clinton said the United States is looking for ways to "appropriately" back the tense unity government.

She warmly welcomed Tsvangirai as a "long-time advocate for his country and the people of Zimbabwe on behalf of human rights and economic opportunity...

"He is now in a unified government that is attempting to move Zimbabwe forward into a better future...," the chief US diplomat said as she stood before the cameras with the former opposition leader.

"And I’m anxious to hear about the plans and the work that your government is undertaking, and to look for ways that we appropriately can be supportive.”


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