Page last updated at 14:43 GMT, Friday, 16 May 2008 15:43 UK

Tsvangirai attends city congress

Mr Tsvangirai beat Robert Mugabe in the first round
Mr Tsvangirai beat Robert Mugabe in the first round

Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has been in Belfast for a political conference.

He is attending the 55th Congress of Liberal International.

Mr Tsvangirai beat Robert Mugabe in the first round of the presidential election in March, but with not enough votes to avoid a run-off.

He is set to return to Zimbabwe on Friday to prepare for the presidential election re-run next month - his first time in the country since March.

Members of about 100 Liberal parties from across the world are in Belfast for the conference - the first time it has been held in Northern Ireland.

Mr Tsvangirai told a news conference in Belfast: "I must return to Zimbabwe to be with our people and to lift them out of the darkness.

"On the 29th of March the people of Zimbabwe voted. Mugabe lost that first round, 57% of the people who cast their vote did not vote for him.

"I am so confident that in spite of the violence, come the second round they will reconfirm that rejection."

He denied he was in exile and urged President Mugabe to peacefully accept the verdict of the second round vote.

"I did not run away, I am not in exile, it was for strategic reasons, we had to engage with all the African leaders about the crisis."

Former Alliance leader Lord Alderdice, who is currently president of Liberal International, said it was an honour that Mr Tsvangirai and Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade had attended the congress.

"It is a city often seen as an example that conflict can be overcome when people choose peace and democracy over violence and tyranny," he said.

"It is an honour for the worldwide liberal family to be in the presence of these distinguished individuals who are dedicated to pursuing basic human rights in Africa."

Three banned parties

Previous meetings have been held in Taipei, Marrakech, Sofia, Manila and Cancun. The three-day event is being hosted by NI's Alliance Party.

Other parties attending include the Liberal Democrats and Flemish Liberals and Democrats.

They will be joined by the Reformist Movement from Belgium, Liberal Party of Canada, the Democratic Alliance in South Africa and the Shinui Party from Israel.

Alliance leader David Ford said congress was massive boost for Belfast
Alliance's David Ford said the congress was a massive boost for Belfast

Members of the Senegalese Democratic Party, the Liberal Party of the Philippines, the Democratic Progressive Party in Taiwan and three banned Cuban parties - the Union Liberal Cubana, the Partido Liberal de Cuba and Partido Solidaridad Democratica will also be there.

Alliance leader David Ford said: "Getting the chance to host this congress is a massive boost for Belfast.

"This is the first time that Northern Ireland has ever hosted the prestigious Liberal International Congress. This gives us the chance of a lifetime to showcase Northern Ireland to powerbrokers from across the globe.

"The Alliance Party's global links within Liberal International are extremely important, and I only wish all other parties in Northern Ireland took such a broad world-view."

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