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Zimbabwe opposition asks for another mediator
Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai is seen, at a news conference in Harare Wednesday July 2, 2008. Tsvangirayi has rejected an African Union decision to keep South Africa's president Thabo Mbeki in charge of efforts to resolve Zimbabwe's political crisis. - photo by Associated Press
    JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai on Wednesday rejected an African Union decision to keep South Africa’s president alone in charge of efforts to resolve Zimbabwe’s political crisis.
    Tsvangirai said the Movement for Democratic Change would not participate in talks about forming a governing accord with President Robert Mugabe’s government unless an additional mediator was appointed.
    The comments came a day after an AU summit reconfirmed South Africa President Thabo Mbeki as mediator. Tsvangirai has repeatedly called on Mbeki to step down, saying Mbeki’s refusal to publicly criticize Mugabe amounts to appeasement. Mugabe has extolled Mbeki’s role.
    ‘‘Unless the mediation team is expanded ... and the mediation mechanism is changed, no meaningful progress can be made toward resolving the Zimbabwe crisis,’’ Tsvangirai told reporters at his home in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital.
    ‘‘If this does not happen, then the MDC will not be part of the mediation process,’’ Tsvangirai said.
    Tsvangirai won the most votes in the first round of presidential voting on March 29, but not the simple majority needed to avoid a runoff against Mugabe. Mugabe is accused of unleashing violence against the opposition to ensure victory in the second round and Tsvangirai withdrew from Friday’s vote, citing attacks on his supporters.
    Mugabe held the vote anyway despite international condemnation. He was declared the overwhelming winner Sunday and immediately held an inauguration ceremony.
    Tsvangirai said Wednesday that the violence in Zimbabwe has continued, with at least nine of his supporters killed since Friday’s vote. He also said hundreds had been beaten and forced to flee their homes since the runoff.
    The U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe, James McGee, also said violence and intimidation was continuing, and had affected an embassy employee.
    McGee said a Zimbabwean driver for the embassy disappeared three days ago, emerging Wednesday to say he had been accosted by unknown assailants, blindfolded and taken to a small room where he was questioned and denied food or water.
    McGee would not describe the questions, but said the incident appeared to be an attempt to try to intimidate people connected with the U.S. Embassy. McGee has been a vocal and frequent critic of Mugabe.
    ‘‘The violence seems to be at least at the same level (as before the runoff). It may even be getting worse,’’ McGee said in an interview. ‘‘We’ve heard stories, unconfirmed, of hit lists. But we do know for a fact that people are being murdered. People continue to disappear.’’
    Zimbabwean state media, meanwhile, focused on reports the government was willing to talk and prominently showed official tallies from the one-candidate presidential runoff. The prominence given the results appeared to underline Mugabe’s expectations of being the senior partner in any deal with Tsvangirai.
    Mbeki’s spokesman Mukoni Ratshitanga said any question of expanding the mediation team would have to be left to the Southern African Development Community, the main regional body that appointed Mbeki mediator more than a year ago, and that the AU should remain in charge of the effort.
    ‘‘We will continue to engage with both parties in Zimbabwe,’’ Ratshitanga added. ‘‘It would be strange if it was ever suggested that the best way to solve problems between parties is not to talk.’’
    Mbeki told state television late Tuesday that he saw his role as merely helping Zimbabweans resolve their own crisis, rejecting outside intervention.
    Mbeki was asked about calls in Europe for Tsvangirai to lead any coalition government. Mbeki says that is a question for Zimbabweans.
    ‘‘Certainly SADC and certainly the African continent has not made any prescription about the outcome of what Zimbabweans should negotiate among themselves,’’ Mbeki said.
    French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told France 2 public TV on Tuesday that the European Union would not accept any Zimbabwe government other than one led by Tsvangirai.
    Kouchner, speaking in Paris at the launch of the French EU presidency, said the Zimbabwe government will be illegitimate if it is not led by the head of opposition. He called last week’s presidential runoff a ‘‘farce.’’

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