Zimbabwe government denies plans to hold talks with opposition

Harare (dpa) - The Zimbabwe government has denied any plans to hold talks with the main opposition party, saying contact between the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and the ruling party of President Robert Mugabe will be confined to parliament, a newspaper said Tuesday.

International press reports at the weekend said Mugabe had been persuaded to end the stand-off between him and his main political rival, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, following a request made by Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo at last week's African Union summit in Libya.

The state-controlled Herald said the reports, which claimed the talks would take place in Zimbabwe or South Africa, were false.

Zimbabwe is deeply divided between Mugabe's ruling Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and the MDC. The opposition claims three elections since 2000 have been stolen through violence, intimidation and electoral fraud.

The southern African country is also facing severe economic and social problems, including chronic shortages of power, fuel and foreign currency.

A controversial two-month old government clean-up campaign in towns and cities targeting so-called illegal structures has added to the country's woes, with human rights groups saying at least 300,000 people have been made homeless.

Mugabe's spokesman confirmed the Zimbabwean leader had held closed meetings with Obasanjo in Libya, as well as with South African president Thabo Mbeki.

Mbeki's economically powerful country is seen as key to easing more than five years of political tension in Zimbabwe by nudging Mugabe's party to the negotiating table. But Mbeki has so far refused to intervene, favouring a policy of "quiet diplomacy". dpa rt ch


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