Tsvangirai seeks refuge in Dutch embassy

ZIMBABWEAN opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who has pulled out of the presidential election because of violence, sought refuge yesterday in the Dutch embassy.

There was no immediate confirmation from Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change. The Dutch foreign ministry said he had not requested asylum, but was welcome to stay for his own security.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said yesterday that President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe should no longer be recognised as the country’s legitimate leader, branding him the head of a regime holding power through violence.

Brown urged the United Nations, the African Union and the Southern African Development Community to convene to resolve the country’s difficulties.

“The world is of one view — that the status quo cannot continue,” Brown told lawmakers at the House of Commons.

Meanwhile UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said Zimbabwe’s presidential elections should be postponed following the withdrawal of the opposition candidate.

Speaking ahead of a Security Council meeting in New York, Mr Ban said Tsvangirai’s decision to pull-out of the June 27 run-off was understandable.

He condemned the campaign of violence and intimidation by government forces as “against the spirit of democracy”.

The MDC said police raided its Harare headquarters and took away more than 60 victims of the violence, in which it says nearly 90 of its supporters have been killed by Mugabe militias. Women and children were among those detained.

Tsvangirai saying his supporters would risk their lives if they voted, said yesterday he was ready to negotiate with Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party, but only if the violence stopped. He pressed regional leaders to push for a postponement of the vote or for Mugabe to step down. But the government said Tsvangirai’s withdrawal came too late to call off the election.

Concern mounted both within and outside Africa over Zimbabwe’s political and economic crisis, which has flooded neighbouring states with millions of refugees. Both the African Union and Southern African Development Community (SADC) were discussing the situation following Tsvangirai’s pullout.

Tsvangirai told South Africa’s 702 Radio: “We are prepared to negotiate with ZANU-PF but, of course, it is important that certain principles are accepted before the negotiations take place. One of the preconditions is that this violence against the people must be stopped.”

The African Union’s top diplomat, Jean Ping, said he was consulting with AU chairman Jakaya Kikwete, the Tanzanian president, with SADC and with South African president Thabo Mbeki — the region’s designated mediator on Zimbabwe — to see what could be done following Tsvangirai’s withdrawal.

Angola’s foreign ministry said SADC foreign ministers were meeting in Luanda to discuss the Zimbabwe crisis.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said it was still looking forward to a credible election on Friday.

“I don’t believe that the level of violence in the country is such that a credible election is impossible. We don’t have a war. We will be able to hold credible elections,” ZEC chairman George Chiweshe told election monitors in Harare.


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