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SADC Postpones Zimbabwe Talks Amid Opposition Boycott


Southern African leaders have postponed a summit on the Zimbabwean political crisis and moved it to Zimbabwe after opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai boycotted the talks because he was not given a passport to travel abroad. The leaders said the meeting would convene next Monday in Harare. VOA's Scott Bobb reports from Johannesburg.

The head of Zimbabwe's main opposition party, and prime minister-designate, Morgan Tsvangirai, refused to travel to Swaziland for the summit of southern African leaders because the government of President Robert Mugabe has not given him a passport. For several months he has been obliged to request a special travel document for each trip abroad.

The Secretary-General of Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change, Tendai Biti, said this could not continue.

"The travel document is an insult," said Biti. To give the prime minister-designate, the leader of a party that has won (elected) the ruling party, a travel document that lasts for the three days that he is there is an insult and it is a reflection that they are not ready (to share power)."

Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party one month ago signed a power sharing agreement with Mr. Tsvangirai and a smaller opposition party headed by Arthur Mutambara. Under the accord, Mr. Tsvangirai is to assume the newly created position of prime minister, but talks on a unity government were declared deadlocked on Friday.

Mutambara told reporters in the Swazi capital the opposition would boycott discussions without the presence of the veteran opposition leader.

A Zimbabwean official dismissed Tsvangirai's refusal to travel as a maneuver, saying he had been given a travel document because the government does not have the foreign exchange to import the material to make new passports.

The M.D.C. said rather it was a deliberate attempt by the government to prevent Mr. Tsvangirai from traveling to brief heads-of-state on the political and economic crisis in his country.

Leaders of the political commission of the Southern Africa Development Community convened the summit after the talks deadlocked in Harare.

The Zimbabwean opposition won a majority of the seats in parliament in elections last March and Mr. Tsvangirai defeated Mr. Mugabe in the first round of the presidential vote. But Mr. Mugabe won the run-off election after Mr. Tsvangirai pulled out citing a campaign of intimidation in which more than 100 of his supporters were killed.

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