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Zimbabwe gets $34m EU aid package

Mugabe and more than 70 of his his elite are currently the subject of EU sanctions  

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The European Union has announced a $34 million aid package for famine-stricken Zimbabwe, warning President Robert Mugabe against interfering with its distribution.

Zimbabwe's opposition and some aid agencies have said Mugabe's government is giving preference to members of his ZANU-PF party when handing out food aid.

The EU, along with the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, has imposed sanctions on Mugabe and his ruling elite over controversial March elections and the seizure of white-owned commercial farmland for redistribution to landless blacks.

The sanctions included a ban on travelling to EU nations and an assets freeze.

The European Commission, the EU's executive body, said its aid package would not go through government hands but would be distributed by the United Nations and other aid agencies.

"Direct food aid is urgently needed. ... However, the government also has a responsibility to help ensure that aid gets to those that need it," said Poul Nielson, European commissioner for development and aid.

Southern Africa faces its worst food crisis in a decade according to the U.N. World Food Program, which expects the number of people requiring immediate food aid to rise to almost 13 million by the end of the year from 7 million in July.

Mugabe, a 78-year-old former guerrilla leader, has vowed to defend his government against Western "bullies" and says economic recovery hinges on his controversial land reforms.

On Monday Mugabe, visiting Kuala Lumpur, asked: "What do I need Europe for?" and said he would push for stronger business ties with Asian states such as Malaysia.

The EU sanctions initially targeted 20 leaders from Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF Party, but were extended to 52 others a week ago.


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