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The BBC's Martin Dawes
"It was supposed to be a mass rally"
 real 28k

The BBC's Grant Ferrett in Harare
"Those who had gathered early fled in panic"
 real 28k

Saturday, 13 May, 2000, 16:19 GMT 17:19 UK
Mugabe raises the stakes
Passport ban 'will add to tension'
Passport ban 'will add to tension'
The Zimbabwean Government has ordered 86,000 British passport holders who live in the country to surrender their Zimbabwean passports.

Our correspondent says the order was printed in the government newspaper, The Herald, stating that holding both passports did not conform to national law.

However, the home affairs minister says he has no knowledge of the statement, which coincided with a decision by the UK Government on Friday to revoke all existing arms export licenses to Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile, government supporters and police have prevented a peace march from taking place in the capital, Harare.

Iron bars

The demonstrators had intended to call for an end to politically motivated attacks in the run-up to general elections.

Morgan Tsvangirai
Tsvangirai called for mass action against intimidation

But police turned back some of the marchers, while about 20 government supporters in two vehicles attacked others with iron bars and other crude weapons.

At a news conference later, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai urged the international community to take strong action against the Zimbabwean government to end the political violence.

He said election observers should be sent immediately to witness the attacks on the opposition, even though the government has yet to set a date for voting.

Mr Tsvangirai, who heads the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), confirmed that his party was committed to taking part in the elections.

'Mass action'

He also said the MDC would launch a programme of "mass action" against alleged political violence and intimidation.

But he said there would be further consultations before any decision on announcing a general strike.

Mr Tsvangirai said that a free and fair election would be virtually impossible in the current climate of violence.

UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said he was "seriously concerned" that the march had been stopped.

He said: "We have made clear all along that the future of Zimbabwe is for the people of Zimbabwe to decide in a free and fair election. That cannot happen unless the oppostion are free from intimidation and unless political meetings can be held in peace."

The crisis erupted three months ago when self-styled war veterans started occupying white-owned farms in protest at land distribution.

Veterans should be as peaceful as possible

President Robert Mugabe

More than 1,200 white-owned farms have been occupied, with at least 15 people killed in recent weeks in associated attacks blamed on supporters of the ruling Zanu-PF party.

The BBC correspondent in Harare, Grant Ferrett, says the opposition's room for manoeuvre is limited.

He says the government might welcome a call for a strike or for international sanctions - as Mr Mugabe thrives on confrontation.

Land commission

On Friday, leaders of white farmers agreed with Mr Mugabe to set up a land commission to oversee the immediate transfer of farmland to the state in return for an end to violence by the president's supporters.

The agreement came at talks in Harare, which also involved leaders of the squatters and liberation war veterans who have been occupying white-owned farms.

Mr Mugabe has firmly backed the land invasions, saying they will not end until farmers hand over nearly 850 farms which the government tried and failed to acquire nearly two years ago.

President Mugabe
Mugabe has backed the land invasions

Farmers' representatives said Mr Mugabe told them he did not approve of the violence by his supporters, a sentiment the president repeated to reporters after the meeting.

"They should not disturb the farmers, they should not touch the property at all," Mr Mugabe said.

However, the deal leaves much to be resolved.

President Mugabe is insisting on the handover of many more farms than the farmers are prepared to offer.

Nor has there been any agreement on whether any compensation will be paid.

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See also:

12 May 00 | UK Politics
UK arms embargo on Zimbabwe
09 May 00 | Africa
Zimbabwe school farm invaded
06 May 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Eyewitness: Fear and intimidation
10 May 00 | Africa
Zimbabwe poll boycott threat
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