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The BBC's Cathy Jenkins
"South Africa already considers Britain one of its top foreign trading partners"
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Tuesday, 12 June, 2001, 02:42 GMT 03:42 UK
South Africa hopes for UK trade boost
Tony Blair meets Thabo Mbeki
Blair and Mbeki exchanged views on Zimbabwe last year
South Africa will cement ties with the United Kingdom during a four-day visit to the country by President Thabo Mbeki.

Africa needs a successful South Africa

British diplomat
President Mbeki arrives in the UK on Tuesday backed by a delegation of eight government ministers, underlying the importance of the state visit.

The political situation in Zimbabwe is likely to be on the agenda during the planned talks between Mr Mbeki and the UK Prime Minister Tony Blair on Thursday.

Criticism by a British junior minister of South Africa's soft approach to Zimbabwe last year caused some diplomatic tension, but both countries say this has been smoothed over.


Zimbabwe's land reform programme, which has included the invasion of white-owned farms, has caused political and economic instability in Zimbabwe.

President Robert Mugabe has insisted that Britain compensate the farmers for the land they have lost. Britain has so far refused to do this unconditionally.

President Mbeki
President Mbeki has spoken a lot about African regeneration
It is believed that President Mbeki will not be put under pressure to get tough with Zimbabwe.

British diplomats understand the importance of South Africa in maintaining stability in southern Africa and they do not want to jeopardise the relationship between the two countries.

Instead the discussion on Zimbabwe, in the words of one British diplomat, will be "frank and constructive".

Mr Mbeki will also be accompanied by about 80 businessmen, emphasising the growing trade between the UK and South Africa.

Trade between Britain and South Africa rose by 40% in 2000 and is now worth about $5.5bn.

African recovery

Mr Mbeki is also expected to promote his Millennium African Recovery Plan, a project that is drawn up to promote development, democracy and peace in Africa.

The plan has been compared to the Marshall Plan for Europe that helped develop the continent after World War II.

In addition to meeting Tony Blair, Mr Mbeki will be meeting Queen Elizabeth and addressing the Scottish Parliament.

Commenting on the importance of the visit, a British diplomat said: "Africa needs a successful South Africa."

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08 May 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Cracks in South Africa's democracy
30 May 01 | Africa
Mbeki rapped over Zimbabwe
19 May 00 | Scotland
Degree honour for Mbeki
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