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Zimbabwe Government Rejects Talks with Opposition - 2003-07-31

Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu PF has dashed hopes of early talks with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change to ease the deepening political and economic crisis. The government denounced church mediators trying to start the talks as opposition activists.

Justice Minister and Zanu PF legal secretary Patrick Chinamasa ruled out talks with the MDC late Wednesday, saying that two of the three church leaders with whom President Robert Mugabe talked last week, were not honest brokers.

Mr. Chinamasa spoke to the state-controlled media following a meeting Wednesday of Zanu PF's politburo, its policy-making body. He said leaders of the Anglican and Methodist churches were what he called MDC activists wearing religious clothing. The third church mediator involved is of the same faith as President Mugabe.

Mr. Chinamasa said the MDC should continue with its legal challenge to last year's presidential election, which many outside observers consider was rigged. He said the re-election of President Mugabe was free and fair.

Mr. Chinamasa told reporters the only reason the opposition had challenged the outcome was to satisfy the British government.

Opposition legal spokesman David Coltart said Thursday he was pleased that there would be no further Zanu PF objection to the MDC's legal challenge to the election. He said the opposition will continue its legal challenge to President Mugabe's re-election even if talks with the government took place.

Zanu PF had said earlier it would not talk to the opposition unless it dropped the court case and recognized Mr. Mugabe was duly elected.