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Zimbabwean Opposition Ends Boycott, Attends Mugabe Speech to Parliament - 2003-07-22


Zimbabwe's opposition has taken a step that it says could facilitate peace talks with the ruling ZANU-PF party. On Tuesday, the members of the Movement for Democratic Change in parliament attended President Robert Mugabe's opening address to parliament.

Since President Mugabe's disputed re-election in March of last year, MDC legislators have walked out of parliament when Mr. Mugabe arrives to open a new session.

The MDC said Monday it would end its boycott as a first step to facilitate Mr. Mugabe's dignified exit from power.

Mr. Mugabe has repeatedly said the MDC must recognize him as the duly elected president, before he would talk to the opposition to resolve the deepening political and humanitarian crisis.

In a statement issued before Mr. Mugabe's address to parliament, MDC parliamentarians said that Zimbabwe was in a quagmire and they would do everything they could to end the people's misery and create a political environment conducive to serious dialogue.

The MDC said it expected the ZANU-PF government to end political violence and called for a return to the rule of law.

In his address to parliament, Mr. Mugabe made no reference to the presence of the MDC members and gave no indication he was willing to enter into political dialogue with the MDC. In one passage of the speech, he warned that those who seek to indulge in illegal activities or attempts to create political instability will face the full wrath of the law."

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai was in the public gallery when Mr. Mugabe made his address. A spokesman for the MDC, Paul Temba Nyathi, said the opposition's presence in parliament does not in any way change its position that Mr. Mugabe's position is disputed. The MDC has launched a legal challenge to Mr. Mugabe's election victory last year, which it says was flawed.