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Zimbabwe Opposition Leader Urges SADC To Deploy Observers As Violence Escalates

Zimbabwean opposition leader and presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai has urged the Southern African Development Community to deploy election monitors right away to ensure the country's run-off can be held June 27 in peaceful conditions.

Tsvangirai told VOA he wanted SADC to deploy monitors as soon as next week, but the regional group has indicated it will send them in the second week of June.

Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change has also asked SADC Chairman Levy Mwanawasa, president of Zambia, to press Zimbabwean President Mugabe to order the dismantling of alleged torture camps in Mashonaland East, Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland West, Manicaland and Masvingo provinces.

The camps are alleged to provide bases for ruling party militia to terrorize rural communities which backed the opposition in March 29 elections.

The MDC has also told the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission that it has lost confidence in its ability to ensure a free and fair run-off, calling it subservient to Mr. Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party - the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front.

Meanwhile, the International Crisis Group think tank and the South African-based Solidarity Peace Trust have called for transitional government saying the run-off cannot be free, fair or credible in the current environment of deadly violence.

Tsvangirai told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that he is open to the idea of accommodating all parties to the conflict.

Meanwhile, ZANU-PF and MDC officials met in Harare on Friday under the auspices of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and closed ranks, condemning the violence that the MDC says has claimed the lives of at least 48 of its activists.

The electoral authority called he meeting, which police representatives also attended, in an effort to end political violence so the presidential run-off election set for June 27 can held in a calm atmosphere.

Sources who attended the meeting said police undertook to bring those committing political violence to book regardless of political affiliation, and promised to dismantle torture camps set up by ZANU-PF militants around the country.

The two parties promised to preach tolerance amongst their supporters.

The opposition delegate to the meeting, Morgan Komichi, told reporter Ntungamili Nkomo of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that a follow-up meeting at which binding agreements on the cessation of political violence has been set for Wednesday.

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