Zimbabwe could abandon its worthless currency and adopt neighbouring South Africa's rand, the country's finance minister said yesterday.

Tendai Biti said the measure was one of three options being considered to try to save the state's stricken economy.

The government could approve the move by the end of the year after assessing the situation, he told South Africa's Times newspaper.

Mr Biti said: 'One of the options is to join the rand monetary union.

'We will also consider continuing with the [current] regime of multiple currencies or bring back the Zimbabwean dollar and redenominate it either with the rand or the US dollar.'

The comments are the first time Zimbabwe's new finance minister has accepted the country could be forced to permanently accept the rand in place of the Zimbabwean dollar, which has been rendered worthless by years of hyperinflation.

Other currencies including the rand and the U.S. dollar are already widely used across the country on an informal basis, but Mr Biti has previously spoken of his determination to 'save' the Zimbabwean dollar.

But by using the rand instead, Zimbabwe would give up power over its monetary policies.

It would also mean the country's interest rates and inflation levels would be set in Pretoria rather than Harare.

In February South Africa's then-president Kgalema Motlanthe suggested Zimbabwe join the rand, but Mr Biti dismissed the proposal.

Despite his apparent turnaround, Mr Biti today also said he believed there were signs of 'stability' within the country's economy.

He added: 'Any such decision depends on the performance of the economy - that would be the ultimate deciding issue.'

Zimbabwe's dollar has been rendered almost completely worthless after years of record-breaking hyperinflation.

In February the government started paying soldiers and other government workers in US dollars after inflation hit more than 10 billion trillion per cent.

The southern African state is now ruled by a fragile coalition government after president Robert Mugabe agreed to share power with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

Finance Minister Mr Biti is a senior MDC figure and took his cabinet role in January.

South African economist Chris Hart said adopting the rand would be an important step towards saving Zimbabwe's economy.

He added: 'It effectively imposes a fiscal and monetary discipline with the Zimbabwean economy functioning on a basis where it does business that is more competitive on an international basis.'