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Thursday, 31 August, 2000, 10:30 GMT 11:30 UK
Zimbabwe 'cannot afford' Congo war
Robert Mugabe
The war is believed to have cost Mugabe votes
Zimbabwean Finance Minister Simba Makoni has admitted that his country cannot sustain the cost of its military intervention in the Democratic Republic of Congo for very much longer.

Quoted on state radio, Mr Makoni said Zimbabwe had spent the equivalent of US $200m since entering the war in 1998.

About 11,000 Zimbabwean troops are fighting with President Laurent Kabila's forces in the Congo, against rebels backed by Rwanda and Uganda.

Zimbabwe is at the same time facing the worst economic crisis in its 20-year history, with foreign exchange problems causing shortages of fuel and other commodities.

Mr Makoni was brought into government and charged with the task of reversing the country's economic decline, after June's parliamentary elections, which saw President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party come close to losing its majority.

Election issue

The cost of the war was raised by the political opposition during the election campaign.

The International Monetary Fund also cited war among its reasons for freezing balance of payments support to Zimbabwe last year.

One report quotes military officials as privately estimating the cost of the conflict to be closer to US $15 million a month.

But Mr Mugabe has ignored criticism of the Congo campaign, and has previously said that the cost of the war would not be revealed until the end of the conflict.

He has said he will withdraw his soldiers from the Congo once United Nations peacekeeping troops are in place - one of the provisions in the peace accord signed in Zambia last year, which has been delayed in its implementation by ongoing fighting.

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See also:

03 Aug 00 | Africa
Mugabe denies farm truce
08 Aug 00 | Africa
Summit backs Zimbabwe over land
25 Jul 00 | Africa
Mugabe's costly Congo venture
28 Jun 00 | Africa
Zimbabwe democracy comes of age
28 Jun 00 | Africa
Zimbabwe rivals look ahead
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