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Zimbabwe Opposition Leader Tsvangirai Seeks Refuge at Dutch Embassy in Harare

By VOA News
23 June 2008

Officials in Amsterdam say Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has taken refuge at the Dutch embassy in Harare.

In a telephone interview with VOA Studio 7 Zimbabwe Monday, Mr. Tsvangirai refused to reveal his whereabouts, citing security risks. But the Dutch foreign ministry said Mr. Tsvangirai is in the embassy.

Mr. Tsvangirai announced his withdrawal from Zimbabwe's presidential runoff on Sunday, saying politically-motivated violence against his supporters made the election impossible.

Earlier Monday, police raided the Movement for Democratic Change headquarters in Harare. A party spokesman says police took away about 60 people. He says most of them are women and children who were victims of recent political violence.

Mr. Tsvangirai told a South African radio station Monday that his party is prepared to negotiate with the ruling ZANU-PF party over Zimbabwe's future, but only if the violence is halted.

Zimbabwean officials say the runoff between Mr. Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe will go ahead as planned on Friday because Mr. Tsvangirai has not turned in written confirmation of his withdrawal to electoral officials.

The state-run Herald newspaper Monday, quotes Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa as saying the ruling ZANU-PF party is not taking the threat of a pullout seriously, and is planning to "romp to victory."

The article noted that if Mr. Tsvangirai formally withdraws, President Robert Mugabe continues as head of state.

Mr. Tsvangirai said Sunday that Mugabe supporters have killed more than 80 MDC activists since the first round of voting in late March. Government officials blame the violence on the MDC.

The head of the African Union Commission says Zimbabwe's election crisis is of "grave concern," and that the AU has begun discussions with its African partners on what action to take.

South Africa's government is urging the MDC to continue peace talks with the government to find a lasting solution to Zimbabwe's political and economic crises.

Mr. Tsvangirai defeated President Mugabe in the initial election March 29. But the official tally showed him falling short of the majority needed to avoid a second round.


Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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