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Zimbabwe's Tsvangirai may pull out of run-off: MDC PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 22 June 2008

HARARE, Fri Jun 20,(bdnews24.com/Reuters) - Zimbabwe's opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai is considering pulling out of the June 27 presidential run-off election, a spokesman for his Movement for Democratic Change said on Friday.

"There is a huge avalanche of calls and pressure from supporters across the country, especially in the rural areas, not to accept to be participants in this charade," MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa told Reuters.

Chamisa did not say when the MDC would decide on participating in the run-off between Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe. Tsvangirai beat Mugabe in the March 29 presidential election but failed to win an absolute majority, according to official results.

The opposition, human rights groups and Western nations accuse Mugabe and his ruling ZANU-PF of orchestrating a brutal campaign to intimidate the opposition and extend Mugabe's 28-year rule in the country, its economy now in ruins.

At least 70 opposition activists have been killed by ZANU-PF militia and security forces and thousands of others have been beaten and harassed, the MDC says. Mugabe's officials blame the opposition for the bloodshed.

Tsvangirai has been arrested five times in the past month and his lieutenant, Tendai Biti, is in police custody facing a treason charge that could carry a death sentence. A judge is due to decide on Friday whether to release Biti.

European Union leaders were set to issue a new threat of further sanctions on Zimbabwe on Friday over the election violence, a draft summit statement showed.

The EU text, obtained by Reuters before the final working session of the two-day summit, said a free and fair election was critical to the resolution of a political and economic crisis in the former British colony.

But it stopped short of backing U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's assertion on Thursday that actions by Mugabe's government meant the run-off will not be free and fair.

EU leaders urged the Southern Africa Development Community and the African Union to deploy a significant number of election monitors and called for a swift and transparent vote count this time after lengthy delays in the first round.

"The European Council reiterates its readiness to take additional measures against those responsible for violence," it said.

EU sanctions currently include an arms embargo, and visa bans and freezing of assets on more than a hundred officials including Mugabe.

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