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Page last updated at 08:07 GMT, Sunday, 22 June 2008 09:07 UK

Zimbabwe opposition to hold rally

Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai campaigns with supporters (21/06/08)
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai is expected to attend the rally

Zimbabwe's opposition is due to stage a rally in the capital, Harare, after a court overturned a police ban.

The Movement for Democratic Change says its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, plans to attend the event, which comes ahead of a presidential run-off vote on 27 June.

But the party spokesman told the BBC the stadium where the rally was to be held had been occupied by armed government supporters.

The MDC plans to decide by Monday whether to compete in the poll.

It says at least 70 of its supporters have been killed in the run-up to the vote.

President Robert Mugabe has accused the MDC of lying about political violence.

On Saturday, the High Court overturned the police ban on the opposition's rally in Harare, the MDC said.

Only God who appointed me will remove me - not the MDC, not the British
President Robert Mugabe

"But... the court order came late in the afternoon, and we have no access to the media and we are not allowed to go around mobilising our supporters," George Sibotshiwe, a spokesman for Mr Tsvangirai, told the BBC.

"But we are defiant and we'll go through with the rally regardless," he added.

However, correspondents say that in the past, police have still found reasons to block such rallies, so there is no guarantee at this stage that the MDC will be able to hold the march.

'Damn lie!'

On Saturday, South Africa sent two mediators to Harare, just days after its President, Thabo Mbeki, went to Zimbabwe himself, for separate talks with Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai.

The BBC's Peter Biles in Johannesburg says this is possibly a last ditch effort to persuade Mr Mugabe to cancel the election run-off, and to persuade both sides to begin negotiation on a government of national unity.

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe speaks in Bulawayo on 20 June 2008
President Mugabe blames the opposition for violence

It is widely accepted that in the present circumstances, with serious political violence, the election will not resolve Zimbabwe's problems, our correspondent adds.

The MDC says its members have been beaten, and its supporters evicted from their homes, forcing it to campaign in near secrecy. the party's secretary general, Tendai Biti, is in custody accused of treason.

Mr Mugabe was quoted by the state-run Herald newspaper as saying that the MDC was making such claims "so that they can later say the elections were not free and fair. Which is a damn lie!"

The president told supporters at a campaign rally in the southern city of Bulawayo on Friday that he would "never allow an event like an election to reverse our independence, our sovereignty."

"Only God who appointed me will remove me - not the MDC, not the British," he said.

Mr Mugabe has accused the MDC of acting in the interest of Britain, the former colonial power, and other Western countries.

'Criminal cabal'

Zimbabwe's other immediate neighbours have also added their voices to increasing international concern over the validity of the run-off.

Angolan President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos, one of Mr Mugabe's closest allies, earlier this week urged him to stop the violence.

Tanzanian Foreign Minister Bernard Membe, head of an election monitoring team, has told the BBC that violence appeared to be "escalating throughout Zimbabwe".

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said that Africa must take the lead in resolving the crisis.

"The whole world is seeing violence in Zimbabwe, organised by this criminal cabal around Robert Mugabe that is preventing the elections taking place in a free and fair way," Mr Brown said on Sunday.

"I think the Africans must lead in a settlement to the Zimbabwean problem. And what we're seeing round Zimbabwe is almost every African leader now coming out and saying very clearly that the violence is unacceptable," he added.


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