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No Meetings in Zambia With MDC, U.S. Group Says

Officials of the U.S. nonprofit organization Freedom House have dismissed claims by a Zimbabwean state-run newspaper that the pro-democracy institution has been holding clandestine meetings with Harare's opposition across the border in Zambia.

The Sunday Mail said Movement for Democratic Change President Morgan Tsvangirai and other prominent figures in his faction of the divided opposition party were in the Zambian border city of Livingstone to meet a Freedom House representative.

It said Freedom House is a front for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and “known world wide for aiding civil unrest in countries seen as a threat to US…interests.”

The organization's Web site says Freedom House was "founded over 60 years ago by (U.S. First Lady) Eleanor Roosevelt...and other Americans concerned with the mounting threats to peace and democracy." The organization engages in advocacy, education and training "to promote human rights, democracy, free market economics, the rule of law, independent media, and US engagement in international affairs."

The Sunday Mail said Zimbabwean authorities have opened an investigation into what Tsvangirai and eight other MDC officials were doing when they were deported.

Zambian immigration spokeswoman Mulako Mbakweta said Tsvangirai was removed last Thursday for failing to declare his intended activities in the country. Tsvangirai spokesman William Bango said the MDC is awaiting an explanation from Lusaka.

Freedom House research editor and Zimbabwe analyst Mark Rosenberg told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that although a former chief of the CIA once served as the group's chairman, Freedom House is not a front for the CIA.

Voice of America reporter Sarah Williams spoke at length with Freedom House Deputy Director Thomas Melia, who said his organization has not met with the Zimbabwean opposition in recent days and that reports to the contrary are “fictitious.”

More reports from VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe…