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The BBC's Martin Dawes
"20 people have been killed and thousands injured"
 real 28k

The BBC's Ishbel Matheson
"There is still severe intimidation of the opposition"
 real 28k

Thursday, 18 May, 2000, 11:23 GMT 12:23 UK
Zimbabwe to take centre stage
Zimbabwe's opposition groups feel intimidated
Zimbabwe's opposition groups feel intimidated
By Diplomatic correspondent Bridget Kendall

The continuing turmoil in Zimbabwe is likely to be the centre of attention when South Africa's President, Thabo Mbeki meets UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Mr Mbeki is on a two-day official visit to London and will have an audience with the Queen before arriving at Downing Street for the talks that will be the political centrepiece of this visit.

He will also answer questions live from around the world on BBC News Online and during a radio phone-in.

Both governments are downplaying the possibility of progress in the continuing dispute and ensuing violence over land reform in Zimbabwe.

Easing tensions

The main problem for both sides will be to make sure disagreements do not sour a visit aimed at promoting closer relations.

Up until now President Mbeki has supported the Zimbabwe president's call for Britain to act first and release funds for a land reform programme as a key step to easing tensions.

But the British position remains firm - that until there have been free and fair elections, an end to farm occupations and other violence, President Mugabe can expect no money from Britain.

Not surprisingly, therefore, British officials say they expect no new initiatives to come out of Thursday's meeting.

Instead, they hope the South African president will agree that the crisis must be solved swiftly and peacefully and continue putting pressure behind the scenes on President Mugabe.

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