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Zimbabwe's Tsvangirai Briefs Diplomats Following Police Crackdown On Protest

Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai briefed African and European diplomats in Harare Thursday one day after after supporters of his formation of the Movement for Democratic Change were beaten by police in the capital.

Tsvangirai vowed to continue with nationwide protests in the weeks ahead to object to the Harare government’s decision to press on with national elections in March despite objections by the opposition and civil society, which also want a new constitution.

Tsvangirai accused the ruling ZANU-PF party of acting in bad faith in refusing to effect electoral reforms despite 10 months of South African-mediated crisis talks.

His formation is still deliberating whether to take part in the elections or boycott them. But Tsvangirai said his MDC faction will only contest free and fair elections.

Tsvangirai faction spokesman Nelson Chamisa told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that despite the harsh response by authorities Wednesday, the opposition formation is determined to press ahead with further demonstrations.

In Washington, US state department spokesman Tom Casey expressed concern about Tsvangirai’s brief arrest and detention by security forces on Wednesday morning, and the violent response by police to MDC supporters heading to a Harare rally.

Meanwhile, South African Local Government Minister Sydney Mufamadi, point man for President Thabo Mbeki in the mediation effort, arrived in Harare Wednesday to try to revive dialogue between the opposition and ruling party, Pretoria sources said.

Those sources said President Mbeki intends to exhaust all possible options to end the deadlock which has developed in the talks before referring the matter to the Southern African Development Community’s committee on politics and defense.

In Harare last week, Mr. Mbeki was unable to persuade President Mugabe to compromise by pushing off March elections and agreeing to adopt a new constitution before those ballots are held - the main sticking points in the negotiations.

Political analyst Theressa Mugadza said Mr Mbeki’s chances of reviving the talks are slim - though Mr. Mbeki's penchant for secrecy makes progress hard to detect.

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