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Page last updated at 10:45 GMT, Tuesday, 24 June 2008 11:45 UK

Tsvangirai gets safety assurances

Morgan Tsvangirai addresses media in Harare on 22 June 2008

Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai says he will leave the Dutch embassy in Harare in the next 48 hours.

He was speaking to Dutch radio from the embassy, where he took refuge on Sunday night after pulling out of a run-off election, citing widespread violence.

He said the Dutch ambassador had received assurances from Zimbabwean authorities about his safety.

Meanwhile, South Africa's governing ANC said it was deeply dismayed by the situation in Zimbabwe.

The party accused the Zimbabwean government of riding roughshod over hard-won democratic rights.

BBC Southern Africa correspondent Peter Biles says this is the strongest statement on Zimbabwe so far by the ANC.

'Acting irrationally'

Mr Tsvangirai told Dutch public broadcaster Radio 1 he hoped Zimbabwe's government would honour assurances about his safety it had offered the Netherlands ambassador.

Morgan Tsvangirai, has been completely outmanoeuvred... The outside world, which mostly sympathises with him, can do nothing whatever to help him
John Simpson, in Harare

He said: "I hope that they mean what they say. This is a regime which is acting irrationally."

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, in a statement about his attempts to mediate in the Zimbabwean crisis, said Mr Tsvangirai had been fleeing soldiers when he took refuge at the embassy in Harare.

BBC world affairs editor John Simpson, who is in Harare, says critics of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader have been lambasting him for seeking refuge in a European embassy, rather than an African one.

He says few people in Zimbabwe know that Mr Tsvangirai has withdrawn from the race, because official media barely ever mention him.

'Cry baby'

He adds that Mr Mugabe is on course for a remarkable victory, when only three months ago he seemed to be on the ropes.

ZIMBABWE AND ITS NEIGHBOURS

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Zimbabwe's opposition wants neighbouring countries to persuade Robert Mugabe to step down. So how are relations changing?

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South Africa's leader Thabo Mbeki remains the key mediator. He has not criticised Mr Mugabe, despite pressure from the ruling ANC.

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Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa called Zimbabwe a "regional embarrassment", before suffering a stroke on 29 June.

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Angola's President Jose Eduardo dos Santos is one of Robert Mugabe's closest allies. He has urged Mr Mugabe to end the violence.

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Botswana said Zimbabwe's 27 June run-off vote was so flawed by violence that it could not be considered legitimate.

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Namibia is an ally of Robert Mugabe. It wants to re-distribute white-owned farms to black villagers. It has not criticised the violence.

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Mozambique has hosted some white farmers forced out of Zimbabwe when their land was seized. It is seen as sympathetic to the opposition.

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Tanzania's ruling party has a history of backing Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party. Its foreign minister has condemned the violence.

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DR Congo's President Joseph Kabila is an ally of Robert Mugabe who sent troops to help his father, Laurent Kabila, fight rebels.

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Malawi is seen as neutral. But 3m people from Malawi are in Zimbabwe and many were badly hit by the farm invasions.

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Zimbabwe's Police Commissioner, Augustine Chihuri, labelled Mr Tsvangirai's move to the Dutch embassy as an "exhibitionist antic", intended to provoke international anger.

He said Mr Tsvangirai, who was briefly detained on five separate occasions during recent election campaigning, had been making a desperate attempt to besmirch the vote.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe's UN ambassador Boniface Chidyausiku told the BBC's Network Africa programme Mr Tsvangirai had never been prevented from campaigning.

"He's a cry baby... He has been free to move wherever he wanted to move," he said.

In other developments on Tuesday:

  • President Robert Mugabe, quoted by the pro-government Herald newspaper, accused Western countries of "telling a lot of lies about Zimbabwe" in order to justify an intervention
  • Former UN High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina Paddy Ashdown, a British politician, warned Zimbabwe's violence could descend into genocide like that in Rwanda in 1994
  • An African election observer, who does not want to be named, told the BBC torture was "the order of the day" in Zimbabwe

On Monday, the UN Security Council unanimously agreed that a free and fair vote on Friday would be "impossible".

The British-drafted statement was toned down from an earlier version but was the first time South Africa, Russia and China had agreed to criticise Mr Mugabe's government.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had called on Zimbabwe to postpone the presidential run-off.

The opposition says some 86 supporters have been killed and 200,000 forced from their homes by Zanu-PF militias but the ruling party blames the MDC for the violence.

The MDC won the parliamentary vote in March, and claims to have won the first round of the presidential contest outright. According to official results, Mr Tsvangirai was ahead of Mr Mugabe but failed to gain enough votes to avoid a run-off.


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