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Page last updated at 10:45 GMT, Thursday, 17 April 2008 11:45 UK

Mugabe rival accused of treason

Morgan Tsvangirai prepares for a TV interview in Johannesburg, 14 April 2008
The MDC says Morgan Tsvangirai won the presidential vote

Zimbabwe's government has stepped up its campaign against opposition MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, by accusing him of treason.

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa alleged he was working with Britain to bring about "regime change".

The MDC and several Western countries continue to push for the results of last month's election to be published.

Mr Tsvangirai has previously been put on trial for treason but acquitted. He said the charges were political.

The Movement for Democratic Change says its leader won the election and says the delay is to give the government time to rig the results.

The election commission says it cannot release the results until it investigates anomalies - a partial recount is to take place this weekend.

Plot

Mr Chinamasa's comments came as the state-controlled Herald newspaper accused Mr Tsvangirai of approaching the UK government to discuss possible military intervention.

The paper said the details were contained in a "memorandum of understanding" between the Movement for Democratic Change leader and "various right-wing groups" in Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Military police with guns
Security is tight as Zimbabweans wait for the results

The Herald also said it had details of a letter from UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown to Mr Tsvangirai assuring him that Britain had lobbied southern African leaders to hold an urgent summit on Zimbabwe and that London would impose more sanctions on the country.

"It is clear from the correspondence that Tsvangirai along with Brown are seeking regime change in Zimbabwe, and on the part of Tsvangirai. This is treasonous," Mr Chinamasa is quoting as saying.

Mr Tsvangirai, who is based in Botswana for the moment, and the UK government have not responded to the allegations, but the Herald quotes MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa as disowning the document and accusing the Zanu-PF government of trying to smear the opposition.

Mr Tsvangirai has always dismissed government charges that he is working for the UK and white Zimbabweans, trying to reverse President Robert Mugabe's land redistribution.

Arrests

Mr Brown told the UN Security Council on Wednesday that no-one believed President Robert Mugabe won the presidential election on 29 March.

Mr Brown said a stolen election in Zimbabwe would not be a democratic election at all.

The MDC says Mr Tsvangirai won the poll outright, but results for the presidential election have still not been issued by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.

Responding to Mr Brown's comments, Mr Chinamasa told the Herald that Zanu-PF had never claimed a Mugabe victory and that unofficial results pointed to the need for a second-round run-off.

Also speaking at the UN in New York, South African President Thabo Mbeki defended his record on Zimbabwe.

Thabo Mbeki speaks at a news conference at the UN's New York headquarters, 16 April, 2008
Mr Mbeki said dialogue was essential to bring about a resolution in Zimbabwe

Mr Mbeki, who has been urged by Western nations to do more to end the crisis in South Africa's neighbour, had said there was "no crisis" in Zimbabwe after meeting Mr Mugabe on Saturday.

He defended those remarks in New York, saying dialogue was essential to bring about a resolution to the situation in Zimbabwe.

"The solution to the problem of Zimbabwe lies in the hands of the people of Zimbabwe," he said.

"In our engagement with the situation, we needed to talk continuously at all times with both the ruling party and the opposition."

We have disturbing and confirmed reports of threats, beatings, abductions, burning of homes and even murder, from many parts of the country
US Ambassador James McGee

In a separate move, the G8 group of major industrialised countries has joined calls for the official results to be published.

Foreign ministers issued a statement urging a speedy, credible and genuinely democratic resolution to the crisis in Zimbabwe.

Only hours later, the European Union joined calls for publication of the results.

European Commission spokesman John Clancy said: "Clearly the publication of the results is needed and it's needed now. Further delays are unacceptable."

Violence

The MDC accuses security forces backed by Zanu-PF of intimidating voters in the run-up to a second round.

Reports of violence towards opposition supporters were supported on Thursday by the US ambassador to Zimbabwe, James McGee.

In a statement to Zimbabweans on the eve of Independence Day, he said: "We have disturbing and confirmed reports of threats, beatings, abductions, burning of homes and even murder, from many parts of the country."

MDC spokesman Mr Chamisa said on Wednesday more than 50 people had been arrested in townships around the capital, Harare and Bulawayo during a strike called by the opposition.

Police have accused the MDC of trying to incite violence with their strike call.

Police reported arresting 30 MDC supporters for obstruction and intimidation, apparently including Chitungwiza MP Marvelous Khumalo.

Meanwhile, a Chinese ship, which police in South Africa said on Wednesday was carrying arms destined for Zimbabwe, has been authorised to unload its cargo at a South African port.

The vessel was anchored off the port of Durban while seeking customs clearance.

Sanctions imposed by Western countries on Zimbabwe forbid the sale of weapons to the country.



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