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Zimbabwe Opposition: New Elections Needed - 2002-03-19

Zimbabwe's opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, said he is not opposed to negotiations about his country's political future, but he says the only real solution to the crisis is a new presidential election. Mr. Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, also gave his support to a three-day general strike starting Wednesday.

Mr. Tsvangirai said negotiations about the future of Zimbabwe were inevitable, but that the conditions did not now exist for meaningful discussions with Mr. Mugabe and the ruling party, ZANU-PF.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday in Harare, the MDC leader said there has been massive government-sponsored violence in rural areas against MDC members and thousands of them have been driven from their homes following the recent presidential elections. He said there was a growing refugee problem in Harare and in provincial towns.

Before any negotiations could begin, Mr. Tsvangirai said, law and order would have to be restored and the state's instruments of violence would have to be dismantled.

There are hundreds of displaced people outside the MDC's offices in central Harare. Men and women spoke about beatings by ZANU-PF since polling began on March 9. Others said their homes had been destroyed or were taken over by Mr. Mugabe's supporters.

They said they expected the MDC to assist them as they had nowhere to live and no food to eat.

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trades Unions, from which MDC gets much of its support, called on all workers to strike for three days. It says many of its members have been beaten up and terrorized by ZANU-PF militants.

Strikes in Zimbabwe are illegal, and the police have promised to act against anyone supporting Wednesday's action.