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Defiant Zimbabwe Opposition Leader Tsvangirai Set To Meet Australian Prime Minister

Undaunted by fierce criticism from Zimbabwean state media over his current visit to Australia, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said Thursday that he will pursue his discussions with government officials among others – including a meeting with Australian Prime Minister John Howard scheduled for Friday.

Back in Harare, the government-controlled Herald newspaper on Wednesday accused Australia of plotting to oust President Robert Mugabe and urged the government to sever relations with Australia and expel its ambassador and other envoys.

Australia recently announced it is revoking the visas of dependents of officials of the ruling ZANU-PF party, mostly students at Australian institutions of higher learning -an expansion of the targeted travel and financial sanctions it put in place in 2002.

In May, Canberra ordered the national cricket team to cancel a tour of Zimbabwe - a response to Harare's violent crackdown on its political and civic opposition.

Addressing war veterans at the ruling party’s headquarters in the capital Wednesday, President Mugabe charged that Tsvangirai had been “summoned” to Australia to receive financial subsidies to his party ahead of elections in March 2008.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer's announcement of an additional A$3.5 million (US$2.9 million) bilateral food aid to Zimbabwe did not ease tensions. Mugabe spokesman George Charamba called the assistance "dirty food" intended to shore up support for Tsvangirai ahead of next year’s presidential and general elections.

In an exclusive interview from Sydney, the Movement for Democratic Change founder told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that he is consulting with Australian officials and other concerned parties about resolving Zimbabwe's crisis.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...