M. Continuo

Zimbabwe seeks Berlin talks to resolve $739 million debt it owes Germany

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe is planning talks with Germany on how to resolve a $739 million (494.65 million pounds) debt it owes to euro zone's biggest economy, the southern African nation's finance minister said on Tuesday.

President Robert Mugabe's government owes foreign creditors, including the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, $9 billion and is intensifying efforts to have the debt cancelled or rescheduled to allow it to access new loans.

Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said Harare wanted to restore ties with Germany, the largest Paris Club creditor before the European Union and United States slapped Mugabe's government with travel and financial sanctions in 2000.

"We have also agreed that they (Germany) are going to invite us to Berlin... to talk about debt, to talk about our economic relationship and how we can move on," Chinamasa told reporters.

Georg Schmidt, Germany's regional director for Sub-Saharan Africa and the Sahel said at the briefing Berlin would take a cue from the southern African country's engagement with the IMF.

On investment, Schmidt said German investors were more concerned with whether Zimbabwe respected the rule of law.

Mugabe's government in 2000 seized commercial farms from whites to resettle black farmers, but critics say mostly Mugabe's allies benefited and put into question Zimbabwe's commitment to upholding property rights and the rule of law.

Mugabe is championing indigenisation, a programme that forces all foreign-owned companies to sell majority shares to black Zimbabweans, raising concern among foreign investors.

(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by James Macharia)