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Last Updated: Monday, 26 March 2007, 11:17 GMT 12:17 UK
Mugabe 'to leave within a year'
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in hospital
Morgan Tsvangirai was badly beaten earlier this month
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe is unlikely to contest presidential elections due next year, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has said.

He told the BBC that people within Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party were "anxious to get another candidate".

Mr Mugabe has said he would like to postpone the elections and stay in power until 2010 but Zanu-PF members are resisting this option.

Mr Tsvangirai also hinted that his party was in talks with Zanu-PF.

"We have always called on all patriotic Zimbabweans who want to see a solution about Mugabe coming together," he told the BBC's Today programme.

"I'm sure that there is national convergence on such a roadmap being worked out between some of the ruling party members and the MDC [Mr Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change]."

However, he denied reports that he had personally held discussion with senior Zanu-PF figures.

'People power'

Western diplomats say that Zanu-PF power-brokers Emmerson Mnangagwa and Solomon Mujuru are both keen to replace Mr Mugabe as the party's candidate next year.

The party's policy-making central committee is due to rule on Wednesday whether to reject or approve Mr Mugabe's suggestion to change the constitution and postpone the elections.

Robert Mugabe
Nothing frightens me, not even little fellows like Bush and Blair
Robert Mugabe

At last December's congress, the party unusually declined to back Mr Mugabe's wishes and the decision was postponed.

Mr Mugabe has governed Zimbabwe since independence in 1980.

Mr Tsvangirai and other MDC officials say they were severely assaulted by the police after being arrested at a rally earlier this month.

Pictures of their injuries sparked outrage in the west and some criticism from other African countries.

On Friday, a Roman Catholic Archbishop repeated his calls for Zimbabwean citizens to take to the streets in protest at conditions in their country.

"This dictator must be brought down right now," said Pius Ncube, Archbishop of Bulawayo.

"Brought down by people power, not by a violent manner but let people fill the streets and demand that he comes down."

But during a rally of Zanu-PF supporters in Harare, the 83-year-old Mr Mugabe remained defiant.

"Nothing frightens me, not even little fellows like Bush and Blair. I have seen it all, I don't fear any suffering or a struggle of any kind," Mr Mugabe, who has led Zimbabwe for 27 years, told cheering crowds.

Zimbabweans are grappling with spiralling annual inflation of 1,700% and widespread unemployment and poverty.




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Morgan Tsvangirai on the BBC's Today programme



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