Zimbabwe's Finance Minister says the country had just $217 in its accounts after paying civil servants and other Government workers.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti said the account figure was for January.

But he told the BBC that the day after about $30m in revenue had been paid in.

Mr Biti appealed for foreign donors to help raise $200 million for a constitutional referendum and elections later this year.

He told the BBC his comments about the finances had been taken out of context.

Speaking on the Focus on Africa radio program he said: "The point I was making was that the Zimbabwean Government doesn't have the funds to finance the election, to finance the referendum," he said.

"To dramatise the point, I simply made a passing reference metaphorically that when we paid civil servants last week on Thursday we were left with $217... but even the following day we had $30m in our account."

Financial experts told Associated Press that Mr Biti, known for his exaggerated rhetoric in the troubled economy, failed to mention quick returns from income tax, social security payments and increased taxable spending in shops and stores.

The Government is the nation's biggest employer - with a work force of up to 300,000 - and salaries routinely account for more than 70 percent of its monthly spending.

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