The leader of one formation of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change on Monday urged members of both MDC groupings not to delay passage of a constitutional amendment needed to put a national unity government in place, warning this could lead President Robert Mugabe to dissolve parliament and call for new elections.

Arthur Mutambara, leader of the smaller MDC formation, said the opposition would be sure to lose such elections which he said would be held "under June 27 conditions," a reference to the deadly violence which ushered in the president runoff held on that date last year.

Mutambara criticized both the president and Tsvangirai for "prevaricating" on the formation of the government of national unity contemplated in the power-sharing agreement signed Sept. 15 by both MDC formation leaders and Mr. Mugabe on behalf of his ZANU-PF party.

"They are equally culpable" Mutambara said of Mr. Mugabe and Tsvangirai in an interview with reporter Ntungamili Nkomo of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe.

"Yes, Mugabe is the author of the crisis in our country, but Morgan Tsvangirai has a unique chance and opportunity to assist in the serving of our country. Unfortunately, he is abusing that leverage. We condemn without any reservation [his] abuse...of an opportunity for him to help his own constituency. So we are encouraging both to put the people first."

Responding to Mutambara?s broadside, spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the Tsvangirai MDC formation accused Mutambara of ignoring legitimate MDC concerns and siding with ZANU-PF. He said there could be no legal basis for Mr. Mugabe to dissolve the parliament simply because the combined MDC, which holds a majority, refused to pass the amendment.

"Instead of pointing fingers at Mr. Tsvangirai to say that he is equally culpable, we need to deal with outstanding issues. We have a very legitimate, noble and justifiable case, and I believe that Mr. Mutambara is not looking at these cases objectively," Chamisa said.

Offering a civil society perspective, National Constitutional Assembly Chairman Lovemore Madhuku said the dissolution or continuation of parliament is a political matter.

Tsvangirai was due back in Harare this week after spending two months outside the country, mainly in Botswana in recent weeks. There was speculation he might meet with President Mugabe, who has returned from what Harare called his "annual leave" in Singapore.

Elsewhere, High Court Judge President Rita Makarau, in a ceremony marking the opening of the 2009 legal year lashed out at the nation's political leaders, saying their bickering was exacerbating the nation?s profound economic problems.

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