Zimbabwe ready to re-engage, says Tsvangirai

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Zimbabwe is ready to re-engage with the global community, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said on Monday during a visit to Australia which said it was open to easing sanctions.

Tsvangirai said while Zimbabwe had endured a "very dark and unfortunate history", the inclusive government in which he is part was a step towards rectifying past political problems.

"I am hoping that with your assistance, and with the assistance of all the goodwill in the international community, we should be able to rescue the country," he told a lunch hosted by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

"My visit here has been largely to explain to the political leadership and the business community that Zimbabwe is ready to re-engage, to re-engage with the international community as a member of the international community and not just as a pariah state."

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe -- one of Africa's longest-ruling leaders -- was forced into the power-sharing deal with arch-rival Tsvangirai after a violence-marred election in 2008.

"I hope that as people move to believe in Africa once more, not as a continent of poverty and disease but as an opportunity continent, Zimbabwe can ride on that crest also," Tsvangirai added.

Gillard, who held formal talks with Tsvangirai Monday, said as the country sought peace its people would "always have a friend and supporter in Australia".

A spokesman for Gillard added that the Australian leader was proud to host Tsvangirai, "whose personal courage and sacrifice embodied the aspirations of an entire population".

Gillard noted the importance of the adoption of a new constitution by referendum in Zimbabwe and the subsequent holding of free and fair elections, he said.

"The prime minister assured Prime Minister Tsvangirai that Australia would continue to speak out against any attempts to undermine the path to free and fair elections, including political violence and intimidation," he said.

Trade Minister Craig Emerson said Canberra may ease sanctions.

"We will be listening to advice from Prime Minister Tsvangirai about the issue of sanctions," Emerson told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"If he indicates to us that there is a case for easing some sanctions, that is to reward the reformers and show the hardliners that reform does actually pay dividends, then we will be open to those sorts of arguments."

Australia has had sanctions against persons or entities who engage in, or have engaged in, activities that seriously undermine democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law in Zimbabwe since 2002.

Canberra was a strong supporter of Zimbabwe's independence in 1980 and was one of the first donors to help efforts to restore basic services following the 2008 economic crisis.

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