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Showdown Over Rallies Looms Between Zimbabwe Opposition and Police

Another showdown was looming between the Zimbabwean opposition and authorities as the Movement for Democratic Change faction headed by Morgan Tsvangirai called rallies in several provincial cities and police attempted to impose strict conditions.

The Tsvangirai faction called weekend rallies in Masvingo, Mutare, Rusape, Zvishavane and Gweru. But police said they would not be allowed to sing political songs, use loudspeakers, bullhorns or whistles, and would be held responsible for any violence that occurred during or after the meetings, opposition officials said.

MDC Manicaland spokesman Pishai Muchauraya told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Mutare police authorized a rally under tight conditions.

MDC leaders said they would proceed with the rallies and disregard police conditions.

Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena recently produced bullhorns and whistles at a news conference, saying the items proved is bent on overthrowing the government.

Defense Minister Sydney Sekeramai was quoted Friday in the state-controlled Herald newspaper accusing the MDC of being a Western tool for terrorism.

Spokesman Nelson Chamisa rejected the charge, saying Harare was provoking the opposition and trying to destabilize it with an ongoing crackdown in which suspected state agents have abducted and beaten scores if not hundreds of activists.

Chamisa said the purpose of the weekend rallies was to give supporters feedback on the crackdown, crisis mediation by South African President Thabo Mbeki, and the presidential and parliamentary elections slated for March 2008.

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