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Zambia's President Says Opposition Could Face Treason Charges

Zambia's president says his opponents will face treason charges if they try to block planned changes to the constitution.

Zambian state media quote President Levy Mwanawasa as saying he had returned from his trip to the United Nations in New York a changed man and will no longer tolerate malicious criticisms.

Speaking Tuesday at Lusaka International airport, the president said the act authorizing the National Constitutional Conference (NCC) was now law. He said those who continue to obstruct the reform process will be arrested and charged with treason.

He also threatened to use his powers to dissolve the NCC if the opposition refused to cooperate in drafting a new constitution.

Some opponents have said they will boycott the conference, claiming it is dominated by the president and his Movement for Multi-Party Democracy.

The British Broadcasting Corporation quoted opposition leader Michael Sata as saying that the process is a fraud and not democratic. He also said he was not afraid to be arrested.

Sata was briefly detained last year on charges of filing a false statement with election officials ahead of a presidential vote.

Despite losing to Mr. Mwanawasa in that election, Sata's Patriotic Front party won municipal elections in the capital, Lusaka, and the country's industrial heartland.