Britain raises annual funding to Harare by £800,000 to £12m

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The Independent Online

Britain's financial aid to Zimbabwe is to rise this year, despite the fact that relations between the two countries are under unprecedented strain.

Aid funding is expected to increase from £11.2m to £12m, figures from the Department for International Development show. The aid money is being paid directly to the Mugabe regime, despite its endemic corruption.

Although the wisdom of continuing such payments has been questioned by some MPs as the land crisis deepens, opposition politicians in Zimbabwe have urged Western nations to maintain the flow of aid. Withdrawing it would have the dual effect of disadvantaging the country's poorest people and strengthening Mr Mugabe's position, they claim.

But the Liberal Democrat international development spokeswoman, Jenny Tonge, this week suggested it was hypocritical to cut direct aid to the Ethiopian government when aid to Zimbabwe was being increased.

Both countries were prosecuting wars, but one was being penalised as a result while the other was not. "There are double standards being operated and nobody seems to know why," she said.

Gary Streeter, the Conservative international development spokesman, also attacked the Government over aid to Zimbabwe. "Clare Short claims she will not give any aid to Ethiopia because it will be wasted on their war with Eritrea, yet she continues to plough money into Zimbabwe despite Mugabe's involvement in the war in the Congo," he said.

A spokeswoman for the Department for International Development said it believed all its projects helped to alleviate poverty. "In the current crisis it is the poor that are suffering the most," she said.