WASHINGTON (CNN) - The United States will provide $73 million in aid to Zimbabwe, President Barack Obama announced Friday after meeting with Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai at the White House.
"I obviously have extraordinary admiration for the courage and tenacity that the prime minister has shown in navigating through some very difficult political times in Zimbabwe," Obama said.
"There was a time when Zimbabwe was the breadbasket of Africa, and (it) continues to have enormous potential. It has gone through a very dark and difficult time politically."
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe "has not acted oftentimes in the best interest of the Zimbabwean people and has been resistant to the democratic changes that need to take place," Obama said. "We now have a power-sharing agreement that shows promise, and we want to do everything we can to encourage the kinds of improvement not only on human rights and rule of law, freedom of the press and democracy that is so necessary, but also on the economic front."
The U.S. aid will not be going to the government directly "because we continue to be concerned about consolidating democracy, human rights and rule of law," Obama said. "But it will be going directly to the people in Zimbabwe."
Tsvangirai is "going to continue to provide us with direction in ways that he thinks we can be helpful," the president said.
Tsvangirai noted that progress has been made by the transitional government, but much remains to be done. "It is the problems of implementation," he said. "... even by the standard of our own benchmarks, there are gaps that still exist." He said he was committed to continue to strive to meet those benchmarks, not for the international community, but because "it gives (the) people of Zimbabwe freedom and opportunity to grow."
The power-sharing arrangement between Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, and Mugabe came after contested elections last year.
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