Mugabe Rival Sets Conditions For Talks

Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe is officially sworn in as president after a sharply criticized runoff vote that was boycotted by his only rival, Morgan Tsvangirai.
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, July 3, 2008

HARARE, Zimbabwe, July 2 -- Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said Wednesday that he would not consider joining a unity government as a junior partner to President Robert Mugabe, whom he has accused of beating, torturing and killing his way to reelection last week.

The African Union on Tuesday urged the two sides to immediately begin negotiations with the goal of sharing power, and numerous news reports have said such talks have already begun.

But Tsvangirai, speaking at his home in Harare, the capital, said that there have been no meaningful discussions and that there can be no progress toward resolving Zimbabwe's political crisis until the African Union appoints a new mediator. His party has repeatedly said South African President Thabo Mbeki, who was chosen by regional leaders to negotiate a resolution, favors Mugabe.

Without a new mediation team, Tsvangirai said, his party will boycott any discussions with Mugabe's government.

"The crisis in Zimbabwe requires urgent action," he said. "The violence, intimidation, hunger and suffering must be addressed as soon as possible. Zimbabweans cannot afford any more confusion or delays. Zimbabweans can no longer afford words that are not reinforced by actions."

The March 29 election and June 27 runoff followed more than a year of negotiations between the ruling party and the opposition party. Although the sides made some progress in the talks, the runoff campaign was marred by some of the most widespread and severe state-sponsored political violence in 20 years.

Tsvangirai received more votes than Mugabe in the first round but boycotted the second round because of the violence, which has devastated his party, the Movement for Democratic Change. Mugabe was declared the winner and sworn in on Sunday.

Tsvangirai has said that the March results, rather than the runoff, should be the basis for all negotiations and that any unified government should be part of a broader transition toward his party taking control of the government.

Tsvangirai also said nine more opposition party activists had been killed since Friday's election, bringing the reported death toll to at least 95.

Meanwhile, the United States is urging the U.N. Security Council to freeze the financial assets of Mugabe and 11 of his officials and restrict them from traveling outside their country, according to a draft resolution obtained by the Associated Press. The document also demands that the government begin immediate talks with the opposition on forming a unity government.

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