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Angola leader urges end to Zimbabwe poll violence

21/06/2008 - 12:48

By Nelson Banya

HARARE (Reuters) - Angola's veteran leader has added hisweight to appeals to Zimbabwe's government to end the politicalviolence and intimidation that is threatening the legitimacy ofits June 27 presidential run-off election.

President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, an old ally ofZimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, sent a message urging himto "embrace a spirit of tolerance", Angola's state-run ANGOPnews agency said late on Friday.

The new appeal came amid signs of growing Africandiscontent over bloodshed that has escalated since Zimbabwe'sMarch 29 general election.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change says at least70 of its members have been killed since that vote, andopposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai is considering pulling outof the run-off for president, a spokesman said.

"President Jose Eduardo dos Santos urged Zimbabwe's leaderto embrace a spirit of tolerance and respect for democraticnorms while at the same time appealing for an end to all actsof intimidation and violence occurring in that country," ANGOPsaid.

A number of African nations, the United States and formercolonial power Britain have said they do not believe nextweek's run-off between Mugabe and Tsvangirai will be free andfair.

The new appeal to Mugabe carried particular weight comingfrom dos Santos, 65, who like the Zimbabwean leader, is aformer liberation-era guerrilla.

Nearly 30 years in power in his former Portuguese-ruledterritory, dos Santos has himself been at odds with the West,refusing to bow to demands that he make his government moretransparent and democratic.

The 14-nation Southern Africa Development Community issending 380 monitors to Zimbabwe for the vote. Zimbabwe hasrefused to admit Western observers and ignored Britain'srequest that international rights officials be allowed into thenation.

Mugabe's government has also slashed the number ofZimbabwean observers who will be on hand for the election,according to the Zimbabwe Elections Support Network, which hadnearly 9,000 observers for the March election.

"We only got invitations for 500 observers," RindaiChipfunde-Vava, the national director of ZESN, said.

"A DAMN LIE"

Tsvangirai defeated Mugabe in the March vote but fell shortof the outright majority needed to avoid a second round,according to official results.

The MDC leader has been detained five times during hiscampaign and MDC Secretary-General Tendai Biti remains incustody facing a treason charge and other offences. Biti isaccused of leaking results of the March elections prematurely.

He faces a death sentence if convicted.

Mugabe, 84, is fighting to cling onto power in the countryhe has ruled since independence from Britain in 1980. Onceprosperous, its economy is now ruined and millions have fledthe political and economic crisis to neighbouring states.

On Friday he denied that security forces were using brutaltactics against the opposition and accused the MDC of inventingreports of violence.

The political impasse threatens to make worse the economiccrisis in Zimbabwe, which is struggling with inflation over165,000 percent, 80 percent unemployment and chronic food andfuel shortages.

(Writing by Paul Simao; Editing by Richard Balmforth)


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