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Zimbabwe Opposition Leader  Seeks Refuge in Dutch Embassy


Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has sought refuge in the Dutch Embassy in Harare. VOA's Delia Robertson reports from our southern Africa bureau in Johannesburg the development comes a day after Tsvangirai withdraw from a presidential runoff election against Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe.

The Dutch Foreign Ministry confirmed that Morgan Tsvangirai is being sheltered at the country's embassy in Harare. The ministry said the decision had been made earlier by the Foreign Minister following a request for assistance, should it be needed, from the MDC.

Tsvangirai's move to the Dutch embassy followed a police raid on his party's headquarters and the arrest of dozens of opposition supporters. The MDC said most were mothers and children and other victims of political violence who had sought shelter at party's Harare office.

Earlier in the day Tsvangirai told South African radio that he would would be willing to negotiate with Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe on a way forward following his withdrawal from the presidential runoff election, providing there is an end to political violence.

Tsvangirai withdrew from the presidential runoff election Sunday saying that it was an illegitimate, violent sham. But Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa says the election will go ahead. This was echoed by the chairman of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission George Chiweshe who told South Africa radio a credible election remains possible.

"Everything is in place, our logistics are in place, we are deploying our personnel and electoral officers on the ground, to the districts to the constituencies, to the polling centers," said Chiweshe. "We are doing all that."

President Thabo Mbeki, who facilitated talks between the MDC and Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF last year, has said he hopes the parties will return to the table.

"It is still necessary that the political leadership of Zimbabwe should get together and find a solution to the challenges that face Zimbabwe," he said. "So I would hope that leadership would still be open to a process which would result in them coming to some agreement about what happens to their country."

But on Sunday Tsvangirai made it plain he wants a broader African involvement in Zimbabwe including the African Union. The AU said in a statement Monday it is gravely concerned about the situation in Zimbabwe.


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