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ZIMBABWE Diplomat: Government is interfering with efforts



Published: Sat, August 13, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Red tape has kept 10,000 tons of food from citizens.

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) -- A U.S. diplomat barred from meeting victims of President Robert Mugabe's mass eviction campaign, criticized the Zimbabwe government Saturday for interfering with aid efforts and warned of outrage in Congress over the worsening humanitarian crisis.

Tony Hall, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. World Food Program and Food and Agriculture Organization, said the United States would donate $51.8 million worth of food for Zimbabwe and the neighboring drought-stricken countries of Zambia, Malawi, Lesotho and Swaziland.

The 73,500 tons will be sufficient to feed 5 million to 6 million people for a month, he told reporters at Harare airport.

"Despite our differences with the government, the United States will stand by the people of Zimbabwe because there is no place for politics when it comes to feeding hungry people," Hall said.

The World Food Program says up to a third of Zimbabwe's 12 million people may suffer from food shortages, even though Mugabe's government has played down the need for outside help.

Hall said the Zimbabwean bureaucracy was keeping 10,000 tons of food aid from U.S. relief groups "bottled up" in the South African port of Durban, over a reported lack of import licenses. He said another group had not been given permission to distribute 15,000 tons already here.

Hall, who was a congressman for 24 years, said he would speak with U.S. officials about what he had seen.

Security officers prevented Hall from making a scheduled visit to Hopley Farm to investigate claims that 700,000 urban poor were left homeless or without jobs by the eight-week "Operation Murambatsvina" -- "Drive Out Filth."




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