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Zimbabwe Opposition Leader Vows To Block Mugabe Term Extension

The founding president of Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change promised Wednesday to resist any attempt by the ruling ZANU-PF party to extend the term of president Robert Mugabe beyond its normal expiration in 2008.

Morgan Tsvangirai, who heads one faction of the MDC, divided since late 2005, said his grouping will mobilize Zimbabweans against the ruling party's "harmonization" of the election schedule through the civil society-led Save Zimbabwe Campaign.

Tsvangirai was speaking at a news conference at his party’s headquarters in Harare to announce resolutions passed by his faction's executive council last week.

Tsvangirai said his grouping's “synergies and chemistry” with civic organizations and other political parties in the Save Zimbabwe Campaign should to be strengthened. He said the MDC had endorsed the resolution of its civil society partners and agreed to "combine efforts to resolve the national crisis through a democratic vote in 2008."

The 2008 presidential ballot should be held under a new constitution, he added.

Tsvangirai called the agenda "a public expression of our rejection of the extension of the status quo." He said the national crisis "cannot be extended by another term.”

He said he intended to bring the issue to the attention of the international community, especially the United Nations, the African Union and the Southern African Development Community, of which Zimbabwe is a member.

Tsvangirai told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that his party is determined to press its demands successfully this year.

Meanwhile, Tsvangirai and an American embassy spokesman dismissed as false a report in the state-controlled Herald newspaper alleging that U.S. Ambassador Christopher Dell called a meeting January 9 with Tsvangirai and rival opposition faction leader Arthur Mutambara, urging the two men to reunite the MDC.

The newspaper said the faction leaders and their top lieutenants attended the meeting at the Bronte Hotel in the capital. The newspaper said the ambassador promised the opposition leaders US$1 million in funding if the two factions would reunite.

Embassy Public Affairs Officer Paul Engelstad issued a brief statement Wednesday calling the story “false.” Engelstad added: “Neither Ambassador Dell, who was not in Harare on that date, nor any other United states of America Embassy official, attended the alleged meeting referred to in the story.”

Tsvangirai also dismissed the report, and the Mutambara faction in a press release said the alleged meeting was “a figment of the imagination of the Herald editors and their CIO (Central Intelligence Organization) handlers.”

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