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Change to new bills sends Zimbabweans into shopping craze

Published August 19, 2006

HARARE, Zimbabwe - Nervous Zimbabweans have gone on a reluctant shopping spree ahead of the phasing out of the nation's old bank notes on Monday.

Consumers have stocked up on bulk goods - from coffee to toilet paper - and the wealthier splurged on new cell phones, clothing, and household and electronic items, store owners said Friday.

The changeover to a new range of bills comes after the central bank struck three zeros off the old notes in the hyperinflation economy and this month began issuing the new denominations that include bills for cents, a rarity in world currencies.

Many Zimbabweans were left with old notes they were unable to exchange. Those notes are set to become obsolete at the close of business on Monday.

With record inflation at nearly 1,000 percent, the highest rate in the world, the price of whisky and other imported luxuries has more than doubled in the past two months.

Under the changeover rules, individuals are permitted to exchange a limit of 100-million old Zimbabwe dollars ($400) for new currency in a single transaction each week since Aug. 1.

Also Friday ...

Peacekeepers not welcome: The Islamic clerics who rule much of Somalia rejected a plan for African peacekeepers to be deployed there, saying that foreign soldiers, African or not, would be mercilessly repelled. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development, which includes Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda, wants to dispatch the first troops by October.

Threats dismissed: The Bush administration dismissed a threat by Sudan's president to fire on any U.N. force sent to Darfur, where more than 200,000 people have been killed since 2003. The African Union would make up the majority of a U.N. force that would benefit the Sudanese government as well as the people of Darfur, State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said.

No death for genocide: Rwanda's government has proposed eliminating the death penalty for genocide to encourage European countries and Canada to extradite suspected masterminds of the nation's 1994 mass killings, the attorney general said Friday. Rwanda has repeatedly demanded that Western nations extradite genocide suspects, but some nations have expressed reservations because of the death penalty.

[Last modified August 19, 2006, 01:37:08]

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