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Wednesday, 20 December, 2000, 16:34 GMT
Mozambique's leaders talk
Voting, December 1999
Renamo says it was robbed of election victory last year
Talks have begun between Mozambique's main opposition leader Alfonso Dhlakama and President Joaquim Chissano in an effort to defuse increasing political conflict over disputed results of the election a year ago.

Mr Dhlakama, who leads Mozambique's National Resistance organisation (Renamo), has demanded that votes be recounted; and that members of the police and judiciary be totally independent from President Chissano's ruling Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo).

The country has been divided by political instability since the elections, with Renamo claiming the results were rigged.

Mr Dhlakama had refused to participate in talks with President Chissano unless his agenda for discussions was accepted.

The president has now reportedly agreed that anything can be discussed.

Protests

Protests last month in opposition strongholds in the north of the country saw at least 40 people killed in clashes between demonstrators and police.

Afonso Dhlakama
Mr Dhlakama says mass protests could begin again
Tensions were further exacerbated when 82 people died in a prison in Montepuez where supporters of the opposition Renamo party were rounded up by police after the riots.

Mr Dhlakama blamed President Chissano's Frelimo party for orchestrating the deaths, but Frelimo has denied the allegation.

Just two weeks ago, opposition MPs jeered throughout President Chissano's state of the nation address in the capital Maputo .

The opposition alliance of Renamo and nine other smaller parties took 117 out of the 250 parliamentary seats and have long disputed the elections won by President Chissano's Frelimo party.

Earlier this year, Mr Dhlakama threatened to form his own government in his powerbase in central Mozambique.

Renamo and Frelimo fought a 16-year civil war until 1992 when they signed a peace accord leading to the country's first multi-party elections two years later.

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See also:

13 Nov 00 | Africa
Mozambique mourns dead
07 Dec 00 | Africa
Mozambique president heckled
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