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Part Of Zimbabwe Opposition Declares Itself Ready For March Elections

The Zimbabwean opposition formation led by Arthur Mutambara has declared itself ready and willing to take part in March elections despite complaints from a rival faction and civic groups that say time is too short to organize national elections.

The government of President Robert Mugabe, who seeks re-election, stepped up the pace late last week by gazetting legislation amending security, media and electoral laws which passed with bipartisan support in December. The publication of the amendments signaled that Mr. Mugabe had signed them into law.

Optimists say the amendments make for a more level electoral playing field – but most opposition politicians say much more must be done, and that an election date cannot be set until opposition-ruling party crisis resolution talks are completed and the resulting accords put into effect, especially in violence-prone rural areas.

Civil society legal experts said they were carefully examining whether elections can be legally held in March, given that an election date has not been announced, and that President Mugabe has yet to dissolve parliament and call a general election.

They said the legal issues were complicated by last year's passage of a constitutional amendment providing for simultaneous local, general and presidential elections.

But spokesman Gabriel Chaibva of the Movement for Democratic Changve grouping led by Arthur Mutambara told reporter Carole Gombakomba that his formation believes the laws are clear and it is ready to contest elections in March.

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