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Zimbabwe War Veterans Call for Parliament to Open

Leaders of Zimbabwe's so-called war veterans say they support the opening of Zimbabwe's parliament next week over the objections of main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

In comments published in Friday's edition of Zimbabwe's state-run Herald newspaper, war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda say President Robert Mugabe won the June 27 runoff election and it is his prerogative to open the parliament.

Opposition leader Tsvangirai has said if Mr. Mugabe does open parliament Tuesday, - as he has indicated he will - power-sharing negotiations between the two sides could collapse.

But Sibanda told the Herald that Tsvangirai is merely - the "protégé" of the United States and Britain which, he says are trying to promote illegal regime change in Zimbabwe.

He says the more Tsvangirai demands, the more sanctions the west imposes on the Mugabe government.

The so-called war veterans are hard-line militant supporters of President Mugabe and the ruling party who have been accused of leading violent attacks on opposition members.

Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change's secretary-general Tendai Bill has said reconciliation talks are dead if parliament convenes.

The parties earlier agreed that parliament would convene only if the negotiations failed, or if a national unity government was agreed upon.

Tsvangirai said Thursday talks are progressing but that he and Mr. Mugabe disagree on how to distribute powers between the president and prime minister.

Tsvangirai finished ahead of Mr. Mugabe in the March election. But the opposition leader boycotted the second round of voting held in June, citing widespread state-sponsored violence against his supporters.

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