(Adds EU, South African officials, court case)
By Nelson Banya
HARARE, Jan 16 Zimbabwe's central bank will introduce a 100 trillion Zimbabwe dollar banknote, worth about $33 on the black market, to try to ease desperate cash shortages, state-run media said on Friday.
Prices are doubling every day, and food and fuel are in short supply. A cholera epidemic has killed more than 2,000 people and a deadlock between President Robert Mugabe and the opposition has put hopes of ending the crisis on hold.
Hyper-inflation has forced the central bank to continue to release new banknotes which quickly become almost worthless.
There is an official exchange rate, but most Zimbabweans resort to the informal market for currency transactions.
In addition to the Z$100 trillion dollar note, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe plans to launch Z$10 trillion, Z$20 trillion and Z$50 trillion notes, the Herald newspaper reported.
"In a move meant to ensure that the public has access to their money from banks, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has introduced a new family of banknotes which will gradually come into circulation, starting with the Z$10 trillion," the Herald said, citing a statement from the central bank.
Previous issues of new banknotes have done little to curb the cash crunch faced by Zimbabweans, who often line up for hours outside banks to withdraw barely enough to buy a loaf of bread.
Critics blame the economic meltdown on mismanagement by Mugabe's government, including the seizure and redistribution of thousands of white-owned farms. The once-thriving agricultural sector has fallen into ruin.
The veteran Zimbabwean leader, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, says Western sanctions are the main cause of the economic crisis and worsening humanitarian picture.
Political analysts say the establishment of a unity government between Mugabe's ZANU-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is the best hope of reversing the economic slide and worsening humanitarian crisis.
But power-sharing talks are deadlocked over the control of key government ministries. Tsvangirai accuses Mugabe of trying to assign the MDC a junior role and has demanded the release of detained opposition members before a deal is implemented.
On Thursday, he also called for the unconditional release of detained activists.
Among those arrested is human rights campaigner Jestina Mukoko, accused with the others of plotting to topple Mugabe. A Zimbabwean court on Friday granted her permission to seek her release in the Constitutional Court.
In neighbouring South Africa, European and South African ministers called on Zimbabwe's rival parties to implement their agreement.
"Ministers expressed grave concern at the ongoing violence and abductions and recognised that a political solution to Zimbabwe's problems is critical to bringing an end to this cycle," they said in a statement.
The presidents of regional powers South Africa and Mozambique will meet political parties in Zimbabwe on Monday in a new regional push to break the impasse, South Africa's government said on Thursday.