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Zimbabwe's Opposition Leader Demands Reforms Before Talks with Mugabe - 2002-12-18

The leader of Zimbabwe's main opposition party, The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), says the British and South African governments are trying to arrange for him to meet with President Robert Mugabe. But the opposition leader is not particularly interested in holding such talks.

In a statement, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said he is not interested in talks with the president unless certain conditions are met.

Mr. Tsvangirai accused President Mugabe of trying to use him to deflect attention from Zimbabwe's crushing economic problems. The opposition leader said he will not meet with Mr. Mugabe unless he institutes a variety of reforms including an end to limits on political activities, an end to attacks on political opponents and an end to what he calls the politicization of food distribution.

Mr. Tsvangirai also accused Britain and South Africa of working with Mr. Mugabe in what he called a 'diabolical' plan that would legitimize the Mugabe government.

Mr. Tsvangirai never accepted the results of last March's presidential election, which he lost to Mr. Mugabe. Most African countries said the election was fair, but western countries did not accept the results.

Mr. Tsvangirai has petitioned the courts to have the election result annulled and fresh elections held under international supervision.

During his party's annual conference last week President Mugabe said he would not bow to external pressure to form a coalition government with the opposition.