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Page last updated at 10:46 GMT, Tuesday, 26 August 2008 11:46 UK

MDC heckle Mugabe in parliament

Robert Mugabe
Mugabe is accused of using the security forces to stay in power

MPs from Zimbabwe's main opposition party heckled and jeered President Robert Mugabe, as he opened parliament five months after disputed polls.

"You killed people, we won't forget that," they shouted, while Mr Mugabe listed government achievements.

Correspondents say such scenes are unprecedented in Zimbabwe, which Mr Mugabe has governed since 1980.

At the start of his speech, Mr Mugabe said there was "every expectation" that a power-sharing deal would be agreed.

The opposition says parliament should not have been opened until the deadlocked talks were concluded.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) earlier said it would boycott Mr Mugabe's speech, saying it does not recognise his legitimacy.

Following the March elections, Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF lost its majority in the House of Assembly for the first time since independence in 1980.

On Monday, MDC chairman Lovemore Moyo was elected to be speaker of parliament.

Zanu-PF's Edna Madzongwe on Monday won the presidency of the upper house, the Senate, where Mr Mugabe's party has a majority.

In his speech, Mr Mugabe said he regretted the "isolated cases of political violence" earlier this year and blamed all parties.

The MDC accuses Zanu-PF of organising a campaign of violence to ensure victory in the presidential run-off in June.

It says some 200 people were killed and 200,000 forced from their homes. MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew from the presidential run-off, citing the violence.

MP arrested

The MDC MPs refused to stand when Mr Mugabe entered parliament, before booing him.

Mugabe is not mandated by anyone to address parliament. Nobody has the right to address parliament before talks are completed
MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa

Mr Mugabe's speech was occasionally drowned out as they sang that his party was "rotten".

Correspondents say he looked annoyed and raced through the final lines of his speech.

The BBC's Karen Allen says this was humiliating for Mr Mugabe, as the speech was broadcast live on national television.

Meanwhile, the AP news agency reports that an MDC MP was arrested at his home on Tuesday. One of his colleagues is in custody after being detained when he turned up at parliament to be sworn in on Monday.

A second MDC MP was briefly detained on Monday.

The MDC says this is part of a campaign of intimidation but the police say those accused are wanted in connection with murder, rape and political violence.

No senior Zanu-PF officials have been arrested over the violence.

'New era'

Mr Mugabe arrived at the opening of parliament in the capital Harare to cheers from his supporters outside, the AFP news agency reports.

As he arrived outside the parliament building in a vintage Rolls Royce, many in the crowd chanted: "He is our father. He is our leader."

The new Speaker of Parliament Lovemore Moyo being carried by his supporters
The MDC MPs were overjoyed at Lovemore Moyo's victory

MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa told Reuters news agency it was wrong for Mr Mugabe to address parliament before a power-sharing deal was reached.

"The dialogue has not been completed. It is arrogant and reckless for anybody to come and address parliament," he said.

The talks, mediated by South Africa, have stalled over how powers should be divided between Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai, who would be named to fill the new post of prime minister.

Mr Tsvangirai has opposed the recall of parliament, saying it could jeopardise the talks.

But his protests were ignored.

The new speaker of parliament told the BBC's Network Africa programme that he was excited by his election but also "humbled and honoured" by the show of support from his colleagues.

They broke into song and dance when he was announced the winner of the secret vote.

"I feel this is the beginning of the new era in parliament, the era probably when the executive has to find ways of negotiating with the legislature in order to put through programs," he said.

Mr Moyo said he would remain neutral as a speaker but that his decision-making would be influenced by MDC policies.

Mr Moyo's position means that he will be able to take charge of controversial debates if no power-sharing deal is reached.

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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
National Post National Post Editorial Board: Zimbabwe won't heal until Mugabe is gone - 1 hr ago
Telegraph Robert Mugabe crushes Zimbabwe powersharing hopes - 4 hrs ago
Yorkshire Post Mugabe greeted by jeering in Zimbabwe parliament - 5 hrs ago
Nigeria Guardian Opposition denounces Mugabe's plan to form govt - 8 hrs ago
Times DailyZimbabwe Parliament Opens to Jeers and Arrests - 12 hrs ago
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