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Tsvangirai gives Mugabe 24 hours

Latest update : 2008-06-26

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has issued a 24-hour deadline to Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe to either negotiate or be shunned as an illegitimate leader. African leaders have increased pressure on Mugabe to call off Friday's election.

Click here to read the commentary by FRANCE 24's Armen Georgian: "Mugabe and Tsvangirai willing to negotiate...what?"

HARARE, June 26 (Reuters) - Zimbabwean opposition leader
Morgan Tsvangirai issued a 24-hour deadline to President Robert
Mugabe on Thursday to negotiate or face being shunned as an
illegitimate leader responsible for the killing of civilians.

From the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the
top regional body, to former South African President Nelson
Mandela, African leaders have piled increasing pressure on
Mugabe to call off a presidential run-off on Friday.

Mugabe, 84, who trailed Tsvangirai for the presidency in a
first round election in March, has dismissed international
condemnation of violence against the opposition and has vowed to
extend his 28 years in power.

Tsvangirai, who withdrew from Friday's run-off and has taken
refuge in the Dutch embassy in Harare since Sunday, said in an
interview with Britain's Times newspaper the time for talking to
Mugabe would end if he went ahead with the election.

"Negotiations will be over if Mr Mugabe declares himself the
winner and considers himself the president. How can we
negotiate?" said Tsvangirai, who insists Mugabe must go so
Zimbabwe can end its political turmoil and economic meltdown.

The United States said on Thursday Mugabe's government
should accept the MDC's offer to talk.

"That offer obviously ought to be taken up. But it can't be
taken up from a position in which the Zimbabwean authorities
declare themselves the victors and then believe they can divide
the spoils. That's not going to work," U.S. Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice told reporters in Japan.

If Mugabe approached him afterwards, Tsvangirai said he had
this message: "I made these offers, I made these overtures, I
told you I would negotiate before the elections and not after --
because it's not about elections, it's about transition.

"You disregarded that, you undertook violence against my
supporters, you killed and maimed, you are still killing and
maiming unarmed civilians, the army is still out there.

"How can you call yourself an elected president? You are
illegitimate and I will not speak to an illegitimate president."

Zimbabwe's Electoral Commission said on Wednesday that
Friday's poll would go ahead.

In a separate statement, Tsvangirai denied that he had
called for military intervention.

"I am not advocating for military intervention in Zimbabwe
by the United Nations or any other organization," he said,
adding that an article published in Britain's Guardian newspaper
in his name on Wednesday did not reflect his position or

Tsvangirai said it was too early to say when he would leave
the Dutch embassy.

"I am the prime target. I am not going to take chances with
my safety. It's not just about Mr Mugabe, it's about the people
out there who could take the law into their own hands. There is
no rule of law here," Tsvangirai said.

His Movement for Democratic Change says nearly 90 of its
supporters have been killed by militias loyal to Mugabe.

On Wednesday, the SADC's security troika urged the
postponement of Friday's election, saying the re-election of
Mugabe could lack legitimacy in the current violent climate.

Regional power South Africa added to the pressure, saying a
top negotiator was in Harare mediating talks on options
including postponement of the vote.

The troika, comprising African Union chairman Tanzania,
Swaziland and Angola, called at its meeting near the Swazi
capital Mbabane for talks between Mugabe's government and the
opposition before a new run-off date was set.

It said the group had been briefed by South African
President Thabo Mbeki, the designated SADC mediator on Zimbabwe.

Mbeki has been widely criticised in the past for taking a
soft line with Mugabe and for not using South Africa's powerful
economic leverage with landlocked Zimbabwe. Kenyan Prime
Minister Raila Odinga called on Wednesday for a new mediator.

The elderly Mandela, revered by many across the world for
his role in ending apartheid in South Africa, rarely speaks on
political issues these days but used a speech at a dinner in
London to condemn a "tragic failure of leadership" in Zimbabwe.

U.S. President George W. Bush said after meeting U.N.
Security Council members at the White House that Friday's poll
had no credibility.

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama,
campaigning to be the first black leader of the United States,  
said the world must do more on Zimbabwe and singled out South
Africa as a country that needed to put more pressure on Mugabe.

Mugabe has presided over a slide into economic chaos,
including 80 percent unemployment and inflation estimated by
experts at about 2 million percent. He blames sanctions by
former colonial power Britain and other Western countries.

Millions of Zimbabweans have fled to neighbouring countries
to escape the economic woes of their once prosperous homeland.

Date created : 2008-06-26