Page last updated at 11:09 GMT, Monday, 28 July 2008 12:09 UK

Mugabe sanctions baffle S Africa

Thabo Mbeki (l) greets Robert Mugabe (r) in Harare, 21 July 2008
President Thabo Mbeki (l) has been the lead mediator over Zimbabwe

South Africa has criticised new sanctions against Robert Mugabe's regime in Zimbabwe, suggesting they could obstruct power-sharing talks.

Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad said it was "difficult to understand" the aim of new sanctions.

Last week, both the US and the EU extended sanctions against individuals and organisations linked to Mr Mugabe.

Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party began talks with opposition officials in South Africa last Thursday.

The talks are aimed at resolving a bitter dispute over Zimbabwe's presidential elections.

"For us, it is difficult to understand the objectives of new sanctions," Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad said.

"The Zimbabweans are meeting, let them sort out what they want for their future. We should not allow outside interference," he said.

A spokesman for South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki has said that the power-sharing talks, which are subject to a media blackout, are proceeding well.

Currency reform

Meanwhile, there has been speculation that Zimbabwe will take measures to tackle the country's rampant inflation.

State media reported at the weekend that the central bank plans to knock several zeros off the Zimbabwean dollar in an effort to overcome cash shortages that are crippling the economy.

But Zimbabwean journalist Brian Hungwe says some economists expect the government to introduce a new currency.

Zimbabwe knocked three zeros off its currency in 2006.

Zimbabwe's $100bn note
Zimbabwe recently starting printing Z$100bn bank notes

Last week, Zimbabwe introduced a Z$100bn note, as official figures put inflation at 2.2m%. Real inflation is believed to be much higher.

Mr Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, agreed to talks after meeting last week for the first time in a decade.

Mr Mugabe won a second round presidential vote a month ago after Mr Tsvangirai pulled out, complaining of a campaign of violence against his supporters.

Mr Tsvangirai had won the first round in March, but official results gave him less than the 50% needed for outright victory.

Since the first round, the MDC says at least 120 of its supporters have been killed, about 5,000 abducted and 200,000 forced from their homes by pro-Mugabe militias and the army.

Cabinet ministers and military officials have denied the charges.

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