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Last Updated: Monday, 18 July, 2005, 17:03 GMT 18:03 UK
Zimbabwe seeks South African aid
Zimbabwe slum residents try to salvage their belongings from a fire
The UN estimates 200,000 have been left homeless
Zimbabwean officials last week requested emergency economic help from South Africa, South African government sources say.

South African media have speculated that Zimbabwe is seeking a loan to help meet its debt repayments.

The request for a loan comes amid condemnation of housing evictions which the UN says have left 200,000 homeless. Correspondents say South Africa may provide money on condition that Zimbabwe halts the evictions.

Zimbabwe's government says the moves are part of a fight against crime.

Business Day newspaper reported that South Africa is to grant a credit line of "hundreds of millions of rand" to Zimbabwe.

Emergency

South African government sources have confirmed that a meeting took place last week after Zimbabwe requested "emergency economic assistance".

BBC Southern Africa correspondent Barnaby Phillips say South African President Thabo Mbeki is pushing for talks between Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and the opposition.

South African churches and Western governments have urged Mr Mbkei to condemn Zimbabwe's slum clearance programme.

A South African church delegation returned to Zimbabwe on Monday following talks with President Thabo Mbeki about housing removals in Zimbabwe.

Last week the church leaders criticised the removals, after their first visit.

Zimbabwe house being destroyed by a bulldozer
The demolitions have been taking place in a time of economic crisis

Analysts say Mr Mugabe's government is under growing pressure.

Anna Tibaijuka, the director of Habitat, the UN's housing organisation, is to brief the UN on her visit to Zimbabwe earlier this month.

Her report on the housing evictions is likely to be debated by the UN later this week.

Eddie Makue, deputy secretary general of the South African Council of Churches, said the purpose of the second visit to Zimbabwe by South African church leaders would be to explore ways of bringing about relief to Zimbabweans

"The first visit was to gain information, come back and report back to central committee which makes decisions. Now we will go back and share the decision with the churches in Zimbabwe," he said.

Financial squeeze

Mr Mugabe's reported request for a loan from South Africa comes amid speculation that Zimbabwe is to be expelled from the International Monetary Fund.

Zimbabwe owes the IMF more than $300m.

Following a failed harvest, almost all the country's foreign exchange is going to pay for food imports, leaving nothing to repay its debts.

But Mr Mugabe is not just counting on South Africa.

Later this week he travels to China. Our correspondent says it is likely the Zimbabwean leader will also be looking for help in Beijing.




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