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Opposition May Consider Pulling Out of Zimbabwe Presidential Runoff

Zimbabwe's main opposition party says it will consider pulling out of the country's presidential runoff election, now one week away.

Nelson Chamisa, spokesman for the Movement for Democratic Change, told VOA Studio 7 Zimbabwe Friday that party leaders will meet on Sunday to discuss withdrawing from the poll.

The June 27 election pits MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai against Zimbabwe's longtime president, Robert Mugabe.

The MDC says Mr. Mugabe's supporters are conducting a campaign of violence and terror ahead of the vote in hopes of securing victory. The party says more than 70 of its supporters have been killed.

Friday, Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos joined a growing number of African leaders expressing doubts about the election and criticizing the Mugabe government. Angolan state radio said Mr. dos Santos called on Mr. Mugabe to stop "all acts of intimidation and violence."

The president and his supporters reject the accusations. Friday, Zimbabwe's police chief, Augustine Chihuri, said the MDC was what he termed the "main culprit" in the violence.

Chihuri said police have arrested 390 MDC supporters and 156 members of the ruling ZANU-PF party since the initial presidential election March 29.

Earlier Friday, a Zimbabwean judge refused to order the release the MDC's number two official, Tendai Biti, who has been charged with treason and other offenses. He has been detained since June 12.

In Brussels, the European Union threatened to issue new sanctions on those deemed responsible for the pre-runoff violence. The EU already has a travel ban on President Mugabe and members of his government who are accused of human rights violations.

Speaking to reporters afterward, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown condemned Mr. Mugabe's government as a "criminal cabal" trying to steal the election.

Mr. Tsvangirai claimed victory in the initial presidential election on March 29. However, official results showed him falling short of the majority needed to avoid a runoff.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.