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Zimbabwe Lifts Reporting Restrictions on BBC

London - The Zimbabwean government has lifted a ban on the BBC reporting freely from the former British colony, ending restrictions in place for eight years, the broadcaster said Thursday.

"The Zimbabwe Government has told the BBC there is no ban on its operations and it can resume reporting, legally and openly, in Zimbabwe," the BBC said on its website.

The BBC has had no official presence in Zimbabwe since 2001, when its Harare correspondent fled, though its reporters have often filed undercover stories.

Relations between London and Harare had soured over controversial land reforms which saw the seizure of white farms which were handed over to landless blacks and alleged rights abuses by the government of veteran President Robert Mugabe.

Rights groups have repeatedly urged the government to relax harsh media laws that have seen local newspapers shut down and journalists and editors arrested and jailed.

The thaw in relations reportedly comes after talks between the Zimbabwean government and the BBC's world news editor and Africa bureau editor.

The BBC published an interview here late Wednesday with the chairman of President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party, John Nkomo, who rejected suggestions that members of his party were trying to derail a unity government.

"I don't think there are any hardliners in Zanu-PF," Nkomo told the broadcaster.

"President Mugabe ... is a principled man. Once he agrees on a programme he wants it implemented. It is in the interest of the whole of Zimbabwe that the agreement succeeds."

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his former opponent Mugabe on February 11 formed a power-sharing government tasked with steering Zimbabwe back to stability after disputed elections last year plunged the impoverished country even deeper into crisis.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner recently reminded Tsvangirai of the need to respect human rights and to have a free media in the country.

There are no independent newspapers in the country now. Radio and television are state-controlled.

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