As the second round of Zimbabwe's presidential election nears, president Robert Mugabe is repeatedly telling supporters that no matter what the result of the presidential run off election on June 27, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai will never take power.  Peta Thornycroft reports from Harare that Mr. Mugabe is openly saying that he will take Zimbabwe to war to keep the ruling Zanu PF in power.

President Robert Mugabe has often said that Morgan Tsvangirai will never rule Zimbabwe.

Mr. Tsvangirai easily defeated Mr. Mugabe in the first round of elections on March 29, but election officials say he failed to win enough votes to avoid a run off.

His party, the Movement for Democratic Change won a parliamentary majority and won control of most of Zimbabwe's urban areas in local government elections.   But the country is politically paralyzed until it has a new president.

Mr. Mugabe spoke at a state funeral Saturday and said that "We shall never, never accept anything that smells of ... the MDC. These pathetic puppets taking over this country? ... That is not going to happen."

He says veterans of the 1970's anti-colonial war had told him that if the country was handed back to 'white hands' because people used a pen to vote, then they, the veterans, will return to the bush to fight

Mr. Mugabe repeatedly tells people that a victory for Morgan Tsvangirai would invite whites back, although most whites left and settled in other countries during the past 30 years.  

"Never again shall this country come under the rule of the white man, direct or indirect.  Not while we, who fought for its liberation, live," he said to cheering supporters, including a large number of uniformed members of the security forces.

The MDC says 66 of its officials, activists and supporters have been killed since the March polls, and thousands have been injured in attacks mostly in Zanu PF strongholds where people voted for Mr. Tsvangirai.  Many victims of the violence say their attackers were uniformed men.

Veterans of the bush war are regularly deployed to intimidate the opposition and were fundamental in the seizure of most white-owned farms beginning in 2000.

The seizure of these productive farms collapsed the economy, and most Zimbabweans now do not have enough food to eat.  

Mr. Mugabe blames what he calls western sanctions for the collapsed economy, where the Zimbabwe dollar is largely worthless and inflation at 165,000 percent, is the highest in the world.