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Last Updated: Monday, 14 June, 2004, 09:02 GMT 10:02 UK
Zimbabwe reveals China arms deal
President Robert Mugabe
President Mugabe has been in power since 1980
Zimbabwe's opposition has condemned a government decision to order fighter aircraft from China and other military equipment worth an estimated $200m.

The defence ministry confirmed it was buying defence equipment from China.

Opposition defence spokesman Giles Mutsekwa said 12 fighter jets and 100 military vehicles were being bought.

Mr Mutsekwa suggested that the move was intended to intimidate Zimbabweans ahead of parliamentary elections due to be held in March next year.

Tendering

Defence Ministry Secretary Trust Maphosa reportedly revealed the purchase during a quarterly review of the defence ministry budget in parliament.

Under questioning he also admitted tendering procedures had been breached.

He blamed this on security reasons and on an arms embargo slapped on Zimbabwe by the European Union and the United States which he said was making it difficult to find spare parts for the current fleet.

Mr Mutsekwa said he was deeply concerned that parliament had not been informed.

"We believe this is a kind of intimidatory tactic because we are going towards very crucial elections next year," he said.

"The idea is that whatever the public does, there is a possibility of it being subverted by the military," he told AFP news agency.

Zimbabwe is suffering a major economic crisis, with inflation at more than 400%, unemployment at about 70% and millions of people surviving on foreign food aid - blamed by critics on a controversial land reform programme.




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