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Zimbabwe Opposition's House Majority Upheld - But Crisis Continues

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission on Saturday released the results of recounts in 18 of 23 constituencies where initial counts were challenged, saying no outcomes had changed, leading observers to conclude that the combined opposition Movement for Democratic Change would retain the house majority it claimed in recent elections.

Electoral Commission Chairman George Chiweshe meanwhile told journalists that his panel's "recount" of presidential election results would be completed by Monday, but that he could not say when the final presidential outcome would be made public. He said numerous errors on forms filed by electoral agents obliged his commission to carry out extensive recounts of presidential ballots to complete the count.

Chiweshe's commission has drawn scathing criticism at home and abroad for failing to deliver the presidential outcome nearly a month after the March 29 election, leading some to accuse it of colluding with the government of President Robert Mugabe to suppress the election results to permit ballot rigging on a massive scale.

Chiweshe said that once his commission had finalized its presidential results, it would hold consultations with all political parties concerned to obtain their acknowledgement and acceptance of the outcome. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change of Morgan Tsvangirai is adamant that he obtained an outright majority in the poll.

Meanwhile, human rights groups expressed concern over mounting violence related to the elections as rural communities which backed the opposition in the elections came under attack by ZANU-PF youth militia, war veterans and in some cases soldiers.

International watchdog Human Rights Watch accused the Zimbabwean government of sponsoring the violence, urging the African Union to take action in the crisis.

"President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party and state security forces have sharply intensified a campaign of organized terror and torture against opposition activists and ordinary Zimbabweans," Human Rights Watch stated.

The organization's director for Africa, Georgette Gagnon, told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyelye of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that her organization issued the report in response to the worsening of conditions in Zimbabwe's rural areas.

In one of the latest incidents of violence, 18 opposition members were severely assaulted in rural Hwange, Matabeleland North, by alleged ZANU-PF sponsored war veterans and fled to Victoria Falls to seek refuge.

Opposition member and Hwange victim, Max Mpofu related his ordeal to reporter Marvellous Mhlanga-Nyahuye of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe.

The mounting violence against opposition supporters in rural areas and a police raid on MDC headquarters Friday in Harare has stoked international outrage.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Saturday urged the international community to denounce the "climate of fear" that he said has enveloped Zimbabwe.

Mr. Brown said he'll seek further discussion of the crisis in the United Nations Security Council next week Tuesday. United Nations spokesman Farhan Haq told VOA that Council members have asked the U.N. Secretariat to brief them on the situation.

Political science Professor John Makumbe of the University of Zimbabwe told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyelye that Mr. Brown's statement was overdue in light of the violence that appeared to be continuing to rise across the country.

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