The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Baird talks sanctions in private meeting with Zimbabwe's finance minister

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OTTAWA - Canada isn't quite ready to ease sanctions against Zimbabwe, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird told the country's visiting finance minister on Wednesday.

Baird made that clear during his private meeting with Tendai Biti, said his spokesman, Rick Roth.

"We are continuously reviewing our sanctions regime," Roth said in an email.

"The minister will certainly consider what he heard and make decisions in due course."

The visitor offered Baird an update on financial and economic reforms in Zimbabwe.

"The two spoke about recent reforms in Zimbabwe, progress made and challenges that remain," said Roth.

The meeting gave Baird a chance to express Canadian views on the need for continued political reform in Zimbabwe, including a referendum on a new constitution, free and fair elections, and the respect for human rights.

Roth said Biti has a strong record on human rights and of pushing for governance reform.

Zimbabwe currently has a coalition government made up of President Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change, of which Biti is secretary general.

The uneasy coalition was formed a year after the country went through violent and inconclusive elections in 2008.

Mugabe, 88, has been endorsed as his party's presidential candidate and is expected to face Tsvangirai in an upcoming election.

Mugabe has been in power since Zimbabwe, formerly known as Rhodesia, gained independence from Britain in 1980.

In 2008, Canada imposed a number of sanctions on Zimbabwe, including a ban on the export of arms or arms-related technical assistance. It also froze the assets of a number of senior government officials, including Mugabe.

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