Sporting and travel sanctions imposed by New Zealand on Zimbabwe a decade ago, with the promise of a free and fair election in the African nation.
Prime Minister John Key today met with counterpart Morgan Tsvangirai, who is on a whirlwind trip to New Zealand and Australia.
The European Union this week removed Zimbabwe from an international blacklist and resumed direct aid with the condition a credible referendum on a new constitution, unveiled last week, is held.
''We would like Zimbabwe to be part of the global community once more,'' Tsvangirai said. The sanctions ''are no longer are making an impact'' and it was ''very important'' they were lifted, he added.
''No country can progress with such measures against it.'' Tsvangirai hoped elections would take place after the referendum, within 12 months.
Key told reporters Tsvangirai made a ''compelling case'' and he would discuss lifting the sanctions with Foreign Minister Murray McCully.
''If there are free and fair elections held in Zimbabwe ... why wouldn't the global community respond in kind and support that new regime? It's for the people of Zimbabwe to decide who their president and their government is. New Zealand just wants to make sure that is fair.''
He said New Zealand could send election observers.
Human rights abuses by the ruling Zanu PF party led to the sanctions in 2002. They included a travel ban on president Robert Mugabe and those associated with his regime and restrictions on Zimbabwean sporting teams. The following year New Zealand also suspended its visitors' visa waiver for Zimbabwe, to apply greater pressure on Mugabe to restore democracy.
International media have reported Mugabe is ready to give up the power he has held for 32 years if he loses next year's election.
Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, said he was ''confident'' that would happen.
He was forced into a power-sharing agreement with Mugabe three years ago after a bloody presidential election. They agreed to reforms and to draft an new constitution ahead of new election.
''If you want to go back and emphasise what happened, you can never move forward,'' he said.
Tsvangirai said the country has dealt with the hyper-inflation problems which once dogged it and is one of the biggest economies in Africa.
''We want to ride on the afro-optimism that is now growing and also take advantage of the investment money that is targeted at Africa ... it is our hope that we can move away from politics and concentrate on economic development. Any investment will help.''
New Zealand gives $4.5m a year channelled through Unicef - which has paid for millions of school textbooks.
''That's something we can look at either increasing, or either directly presenting aid to Zimbabwe, but it would be very much subject to us reaching agreement that those free and fair elections had taken place,'' Key said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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