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Page last updated at 16:00 GMT, Wednesday, 25 June 2008 17:00 UK

Tsvangirai urges negotiated deal

Morgan Tsvangirai speaking at a news conference at his home in Harare

Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has called for a "negotiated political settlement" which would allow the country to begin "healing".

He also called for the immediate release of Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) deputy Tendai Biti, held on treason charges.

He spoke after briefly leaving the Dutch embassy, where he took refuge after pulling out of a run-off vote.

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has vowed to go ahead with Friday's vote.

The time for actions is now, the people and the country can wait no longer - we need to show leadership
Morgan Tsvangirai

While campaigning on Tuesday, Mr Mugabe said his government was open to negotiations with "anyone" but only after the election process had reached its logical conclusion.

Mr Mugabe officially came second to Mr Tsvangirai in the first round in March.

The governing Zanu-PF party, led by Mr Mugabe, also lost its parliamentary majority for the first time since independence in 1980.

Demands

Speaking at a news conference at his home in Harare on Wednesday, Mr Tsvangirai said the run-off would not provide a solution to the crisis and that it was an "exercise in futility".

Mr Tsvangirai listed four key demands that he described as a way out of the crisis.

  • Violence must stop immediately - so-called war veterans and youth militias should return home and checkpoints be removed
  • Humanitarian assistance must be allowed into the country
  • All members of parliament elected on 29 March must be sworn in
  • All political prisoners, including the MDC secretary general, must be released immediately

He said the details of his proposals would need to be hammered out through negotiations.

"What is important is that both parties must realise the country is burning and the only way is to sit down and find a way out of it," Mr Tsvangirai said.

He said there had to be genuine and honest dialogue.

But Mr Tsvangirai warned that the MDC would not enter talks with Mr Mugabe's government if it went ahead with the elections on Friday.

What is important is that both parties must realise the country is burning and the only way is to sit down and find a way out of it
Morgan Tsvangirai

"We have said we are prepared to negotiate on this side of the 27th, not the other side of the 27th," he said.

The government and Zimbabwe's election authority insist the election will go ahead because Mr Tsvangirai's withdrawal came too late to prevent his name appearing on the ballot paper.

In an appeal to African leaders, Mr Tsvangirai said the "time for actions is now" to resolve Zimbabwe's political and humanitarian crisis.

"I am asking the AU [African Union] and Sadc [Southern African Development Community] to lead an expanded initiative supported by the UN to manage what I will call a transitional process," he said.

The mediation process has so far been led by South African President Thabo Mbeki and Sadc.

Mr Tsvangirai said the AU role that he was proposing could not "be a continuation of talks and talks about talks that have been largely fruitless for several years.

"The time for actions is now. The people and the country can wait no longer. We need to show leadership."

Mr Tsvangirai returned to the Dutch embassy shortly after making the statement.

Crisis summit

Southern African leaders are meeting to discuss the crisis - amid international calls to isolate President Mugabe.

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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The Sadc summit involves leaders from Swaziland, Tanzania and Angola - but not from South Africa, despite earlier indications that President Thabo Mbeki would attend.

His spokesman said he had not been invited. The Angolan representative said Mr Mbeki's views would be taken into account.

Mr Tsvangirai announced he was pulling out of the election on Sunday, saying that government-backed violence against his supporters made a free and fair vote impossible.

The Zimbabwean government has been criticised by the United Nations and South Africa's governing ANC party, among others, for the violence.

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


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