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Zimbabwe Prime Minister Tsvangirai Receives Salute From Service Chiefs

During Zimbabwe Defense Forces Day ceremonies on Tuesday, President Robert Mugabe said Western countries are trying to destabilize the country where he said the armed forces are capably maintaining peace, and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai received a salute from two generals who earlier said they would never grant him that mark of respect.

Correspondent Irwin Chifera of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reported from Harare.

Political analyst Glen Mpani of the Center for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation in Cape Town, South Africa, said Mr. Mugabe’s charges against the West were unfounded.

Military and government sources said senior security chiefs undertook to salute the prime minister during an inaugural meeting of the National Security Council a fortnight ago.

At that time both formations of the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change - one led by Tsvangirai, the other by Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, confronted Defense Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa for declaring in parliament that the top brass were only obliged to salute the president, and not necessarily the prime minister.

Tuesday’s salutes signaled a thawing of relations between Mr. Tsvangirai and the military.

Retired Zimbabwe National Army Major Kudzai Mbudzi told reporter Blessing Zulu that a refusal to salute Mr. Tsvangirai would have been dangerous and reflected ignorance.

Mr. Tsvangirai’s MDC formation meanwhile has called for a separation between politics and the uniformed forces, and increased professionalism among soldiers and police officers.

The MDC issued a statement saying the armed forces must put the national interest ahead of those of any political party - a clear reference to Mr. Mugabe's former ruling ZANU-PF. It said an independent board should oversee top military and police appointments and promotions.

MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa, also minister of information communications technology, told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the party acknowledges the key role of the security forces but believes that major changes are in order.

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