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International Crisis Group Calls for Tsvangirai-Led Transitional Government in Zimbabwe

A new report by the International Crisis Group accuses hardliners in President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party of trying to retain power by force. It warns that the ongoing violence could lead to a military coup or martial law unless African and other international leaders help negotiate a government of national unity led by Morgan Tsvangirai. Tendai Maphosa has more from VOA's London News Center.

The International Crisis Group (ICG) report says besides winning a parliamentary majority in the March 29 election, Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) also probably won more than 50 percent of the presidential vote.

Official results showed Tsvangirai outpolled Mugabe in the presidential election but fell short of the absolute majority needed for outright victory.

Francois Grignon of the ICG says there is evidence that the five-week delay in announcing the presidential poll result was meant to give Zanu-PF time to manipulate the outcome and work on a strategy to fight back.

"We are saying that Morgan Tsvangirai should be in charge of the executive and Robert Mugabe's exit should be part of the deal because even the results we that have now give a clear advantage to Morgan Tsvangirai." said Grignon.

This, the report notes, is the first time Mr. Mugabe has come second during his 28 years in power but instead of allowing democracy to run its course, he is clinging to power and has launched a country-wide crackdown. The report also says that if a reasonably free and fair presidential run-off is held as scheduled on June 27, Mr. Mugabe would once again come second best.

Grignon says the ongoing violence could be used as an excuse to declare martial law by the government or to stage a coup by the military. This, he says, is why his organization is calling for the formation of a transitional government that should include the ruling party.

"In view of ZANU-PF's current hold to power, in view of their control of the military and all the institutions of the state, a negotiation that would establish a transition phase; towards democratic elections; towards constitutional reform; towards the restoration of the economy; a recovery package [and] the re-engagement of the international community, such a transition would have to include ZANU-PF," said Grignon.

Meanwhile Mr. Mugabe has blamed the MDC for the violence. An AFP report on Wednesday quotes him as accusing the opposition party of embarking on "an evil crusade". The ICG's Grignon downplayed the allegation.

"I understand that there has been retaliation from MDC sympathizers they have been attacked and some of them retaliated [but] the overwhelming evidence that has been collected by ourselves and the human rights organizations on the ground point to ZANU-PF, security forces, war veterans, police as the culprits for the violence," he said.

Also on Wednesday, the government-owned Herald newspaper reported that Mr. Mugabe would on Sunday kick off his campaign for the June 27 presidential election runoff.