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Zimbabwe Opposition Steps Up Election Boycott Threat

Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has more explicitly threatened that his faction of the divided Movement for Democratic Change will boycott elections that the government has slated for March, laying down conditions for participation in the elections the adoption of a new constitution before balloting begins.

Addressing a campaign rally in Highfield, Harare, Tsvangirai said his formation is not convinced current preparations will result in free and fair elections. He demanded the adoption of a new constitution in advance of elections, revision of the national voters roll, an overhaul of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, and an even-handed approach to the delimitation of 60 new seats being added to parliament.

Correspondent Irwin Chifera of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe was at the Highfield rally and gave reporter Patience Rusere an account of Tsvangirai's speech.

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, chief negotiator for the ruling ZANU-PF party in South African-mediated crisis talks which appeared to have dead-ended last week as President Robert Mugabe rejected an appeal by South African President Thabo Mbeki for a compromise on the election date and constitution, said elections will go ahead.

``If the MDC want to boycott the elections, let them,'' Chinamasa told Bloomberg News. "Perhaps they're sensing defeat already."

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