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Zimbabwe's Mugabe Says Opposition Must Accept Him as President


Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe says the opposition must accept him as the country's leader if it wants to hold talks on ending Zimbabwe's political crisis.

Mr. Mugabe spoke at Harare airport Friday after returning from a summit of African leaders who called for Zimbabwe to form a national unity government following Mr. Mugabe's controversial re-election last week.

Mr. Mugabe Friday said he is open to dialogue but that the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) must recognize him as president.

The longtime Zimbabwean leader was greeted by thousands of his supporters at the airport.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai pulled out of the June 27 presidential run because of what he called systematic violence against his supporters. He told VOA Studio 7 Zimbabwe this week that he will not enter any talks with the government unless the violence stops.

The MDC says militants of the ruling ZANU-PF party have killed close to 90 of its supporters in the days before, during, and after the runoff. Mr. Mugabe and his allies deny the claims, and say the MDC has carried out attacks against ZANU-PF members.

The European Union Friday called for a new election in Zimbabwe as soon as possible, saying it cannot accept the June 27 runoff results.

Botswana Friday repeated a call for the Southern African Development Community not to recognize Mr. Mugabe's re-election. But most other African governments and leaders have declined to directly confront the 84-year-old president.

Mr. Mugabe is still widely respected in Africa as a liberation hero for his role in Zimbabwe's war for independence from Britain. He has ruled Zimbabwe since it became independent in 1980.

Critics blame him for Zimbabwe's economic crisis, marked by an inflation rate that stands officially at 160,000 percent but is believed to be much higher. Mr. Mugabe blames Western sanctions directed at members of his government.

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