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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Zimbabwe buys more military jets from China - report

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe has bought six more military aircraft from China as President Robert Mugabe's government boosts its ties with Asian countries after falling out with the West, state media reported on Wednesday.

The latest acquisition is in addition to six planes bought by Zimbabwe from China in 2005.

"We will be receiving six aircraft from China sometime this year," Defence Secretary Trust Maposa was quoted by the Herald newspaper as telling a parliamentary defence committee.

Maposa did not specify how much the jets had cost.

He said the government was in arrears with three Chinese firms that supplied the jets and other military equipment, including trucks, but indicated that the central bank had plans to pay off the debts.

Mugabe, facing sanctions from Western countries which accuse him of rigging elections and question his human rights record, is promoting a "Look East" policy to strengthen trade and political ties with Asia.

Zimbabwe is in deep economic crisis and faces a foreign currency crisis aggravated by a withdrawal of funding from international lenders, hitting its capacity to import spare parts for its military equipment.

Last week Mugabe said the defence forces had benefited from the "Look East" policy, not only through the acquisition of new equipment but also through learning new military strategies.

The veteran leader said Zimbabwe planners had started a programme to substitute some foreign-sourced parts with locally made ones as a way of beating the sanctions that he says have been orchestrated by former colonial power Britain.
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