Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe.

Harare - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe said Tuesday that he welcomed western re-engagement in his country’s economy, the first such statement in a decade and a half of strained relations with the US and Europe.

Giving his State of the Nation address in the capital, Harare, Tuesday, Mugabe, 91, also called for strengthening of ties with multilateral institutions, which include the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

“My government values re-engagement of the western world in the Zimbabwe economy,” he said.

The southern African nation owes lenders about $8.4 billion, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said November 27.

The IMF began a staff monitoring program in Zimbabwe in 2013, its first formal contact with the country in more than a decade. The economy will probably expand 1.5 percent this year from an initial projection of 3.2 percent, Mugabe said, blaming drought.

Zimbabwe will seek to “repeal all laws that hamper business,” he said, and the government has a plan to revive agriculture, including cotton, and expand the mining industry.

Mugabe, who’s ruled the former British colony since 1980, said his government will create an “Anti-Corruption Trust” to battle graft, which he said is “killing the country.”

Bloomberg