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Zimbabwe's Tsvangirai Puts Trust in Mbeki - But Insists On Electoral Reforms

Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said Thursday that he is pinning his hopes on the crisis mediation initiative undertaken by South African President Thabo Mbeki - but warned that his faction of the Movement for Democratic Change would refuse to participate in 2008 elections if there were not major reforms by then.

Earlier Thursday, Tsvangirai met with Western and African diplomats to brief them on a continuing government crackdown on officials and members of his party, asking for aid for those abducted and beaten by security forces, and for their families. He said opposition coffers have been drained by hospital bills and other expenses. Police seized the opposition faction's computers in a March 28 raid on its headquarters.

Correspondent Thomas Chiripasi of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe filed a report.

Despite international condemnation of its alleged campaign of political repression and human rights abuses, Harare has refused to back down, insisting that the opposition was behind a series of fire bombings of police posts and other targets last month.

Opposition officials said those attacks were carried out by security forces to justify the crackdown they say is intended to force activists to drop out of the movement.

Tsvangirai faction spokesman Nelson Chamisa told reporter Blessing Zulu that the MDC founder also briefed the diplomats on the Mbeki mediation initiative.

Elsewhere, Executive Secretary Thomaz Salomao of the Southern African Development Community, in Harare to examine the state of the Zimbabwean economy as part of the same initiative Mbeki is spearheading, met with Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono, central bank sources said.

Briefing Salomao, Gono acknowledged that Harare faces a serious crisis, the sources said. He told Salomao that SADC assistance could be of use in reviving the collapsed agricultural sector while the mining sector despite its own problems could provide support to the economy as it recovered, sources at the central bank said.

Major injections of capital from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank would be required as well, Gono told Salomao, according to the sources.

Zimbabwe has been cut off from IMF lending facilities because of debt service arrears and is unlikely to receive new credits without sweeping policy changes.

Sources at SADC and in Harare said Wednesday that President Mbeki would be in Harare late this week to meet with President Robert Mugabe, Tsvangirai and rival opposition leader Arthur Mutambara. But Mbeki spokesman Mukoni Ratshitanga said there were no plans for such a visit. Mbeki was in Paris on Thursday for a meeting with French President Jacques Chirac, following talks in Sudan on Wednesday.

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