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President Mugabe Again Warns Opposition Against Mass Protests

President Robert Mugabe has again threatened to unleash state security forces against any demonstrations organized by the political opposition and organized labor to protest the country's fast-deteriorating economic conditions.

The state-controlled Herald newspaper quoted Mr Mugabe as warning that the “long arm of the law will not allow (protesters) to disrupt business and disturb the rights of individuals.” The 82-year-old president reportedly made the comments on Thursday at a police academy graduation parade at Morris Depot in Harare.

Mr. Mugabe also took a swipe at certain churches and civil society organizations who he labeled as Western agents. The faction of the Movement for Democratic Change led by MDC founding President Morgan Tsvangirai, with the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, has threatened mass action over the Mugabe government's handling of the economy, and to press for political reform.

Some observers say Zimbabwe's economic meltdown - the country has been posting negative growth for the past six years and 12-month inflation rate is close to 1,200% - is the biggest threat yet to Mr. Mugabe's tenure of more than 26 years..

Reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe sought a reaction to the president's statement from Tsvangirai-faction spokesman Nelson Chamisa, who said the opposition formation was unfazed by Mr. Mugabe's warning.

Spokesman Gabriel Chaibva of the rival MDC faction headed by Arthur Mutambara outlined where that wing of the divided party stands on mass action.

British-based human rights lawyer Dewa Mavhinga said the use of Zimbabwe's state security apparatus by Mr. Mugabe to quell protests would be an abuse of power.

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