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The BBC's Jim Fish in Harare
"A glimmer of hope for a solution"
 real 28k

Commonwealth Secretary General Don McKinnon
"In the last couple of days things have turned around"
 real 28k

The BBC's Ben Brown
Many white farmers believe the president is a desperate man
 real 28k

Friday, 28 April, 2000, 16:52 GMT 17:52 UK
Veterans call halt to violence

Farm workers remain nervous despite undertakings
War veterans' leaders in Zimbabwe have reached agreement with white farmers that violence on occupied farms must cease, although the occupiers can remain for now.

Veterans will stay on farms but not interfere

Chenjerai Hunzvi

"All violence must end," Zimbabwe War Veterans' Association leader Chenjerai "Hitler" Hunzvi said after talks in Harare.

"However, veterans will stay on the farms but they will not interfere with any farming activities."

In another sign of an apparent decline in tension, the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Don McKinnon, told the BBC he had been given assurances by Zimbabwean Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge that the violence could be brought under control.

Mr McKinnon met Mr Mudenge in London, where Zimbabwe and the UK failed to make any progress at talks on Thursday over the conditions for British funding for land reform.

Mr McKinnon said that Zimbabwe understood the political crisis had cost the country international goodwill.

Mr Mudenge invited the Commonwealth to send observers to monitor forthcoming parliamentary elections - which he promised would be free and fair.


At the talks in Harare, Dr Hunzvi, whose organisation is mainly responsible for the wave of farm invasions, said the "criminal element" behind the violence would be dealt with severely.

Hunzvi: Will not be dictated to by London

The breakthrough came after a second day of talks between a delegation led by Mr Hunzvi and leaders of the Commercial Farmers' Union (CFU), which represents white farmers, to try to end the two-month-long crisis.

Thousands of supporters of President Robert Mugabe led by the war veterans have invaded hundreds of white-owned farms and terrorised farmers and their employees.

The two sides agreed that the occupations could continue while the details of a resettlement scheme were worked out.

Neither side gave any more details, but a CFU delegate told the BBC that he thought for the first time the war veterans were sincere in their commitment end violence and reach a realistic solution.

The farmers and veterans began to find common ground after some farmers agreed in private to end their support for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

A BBC correspondent in Harare says the deal formalises that agreement, although it has not been publicly stated.

Political violence

However, the deal between farmers and veterans does not address the continuing violence aimed at opposition party supporters.

Agreement could boost struggling agricultural sector
A solution to the political crisis still seems far away after the deadlock at Thursday's talks in London.

Neither the UK nor Zimbabwe made concessions over a $57m (36m) UK aid package to fund a land reform scheme.

Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said London would not talk about funding the redistribution of white-owned farms to landless blacks, until violence and the invasions ceased.

At least eight people, including farmers, their employees and opposition supporters, have been killed since the farm invasions began.

Tensions rose further on Thursday when police commissioner Augustine Chihuri announced sweeping powers to curb political activity.

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See also:

28 Apr 00 | Africa
Zimbabwe crisis deepens
28 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Cook aims to cool Zimbabwe crisis
26 Apr 00 | Africa
Opposition warning to Mugabe
26 Apr 00 | Africa
Journalist detained in Zimbabwe
27 Apr 00 | Africa
Police clampdown in Zimbabwe
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