18 May 2005
A Zimbabwe official says President Robert Mugabe is prepared to accept international food aid, as long as it is not tied to political conditions.
The comments by spokesman George Charamba were published in Wednesday's issue of the state-run Herald newspaper.
The newspaper report also says Mr. Mugabe is expected to meet with the head of the World Food Program to assess Zimbabwe's food needs.
The president's willingness to accept food aid is a turnaround from last year, when the government said it recorded a bumper crop of maize, its staple crop.
Zimbabwe now says a drought has reduced the crop, leaving one-and-a-half million people in need of food aid.
Mr. Mugabe has been harshly criticized for refusing food aid by aid agencies and opponents who have blamed his land reform program for disrupting Zimbabwe's agricultural sector.