Tue, Jun 24, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Morgan Tsvangirai takes refuge in Dutch embassy


Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai sought refuge yesterday in the Dutch embassy in Harare, the Dutch Foreign Ministry said.

Dutch television reported that Tsvangirai entered the embassy shortly after a police raid on the headquarters of his party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

“I can confirm that Tsvangirai is currently in the Dutch embassy,” embassy spokesman Bart Rijs said.

It was not clear how long Tsvangirai intended to remain in the embassy building.

Earlier, Zimbabwean police took away about 60 people from the opposition’s headquarters.

Rijs said he could not speculate why Tsvangirai chose the Dutch embassy. But he noted that the Netherlands was a strong supporter of human rights groups in Zimbabwe although it did not finance any political parties.

Opposition spokesman Nqobizitha Mlilo refused to comment on the report.

Tsvangirai pulled out of a presidential runoff set for Friday.

He had applied for a new passport earlier this month and Zimbabwean officials refused, saying he lacked proper police clearance. His current passport has not expired, but its pages are full.

Meanwhile, southern African foreign ministers met in Angola yesterday for talks that included the crisis in Zimbabwe.

Angolan Foreign Minister Joao Miranda, speaking at the meeting’s opening, said a team from the 14-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) had concluded that “the situation is extremely grave” in Zimbabwe.

“There has been harassment of some candidates,” Miranda said. “SADC went into the field, investigated on the ground. The conclusion is that the situation is extremely grave.”

The body has some 250 election observers in Zimbabwe and would pull them out only after Tsvangirai formalized his withdrawal from Friday’s run-off.

But Zimbabwe’s electoral commission said yesterday that it had not received a letter confirming his decision and would move ahead with preparations for the vote.

The SADC has been divided on how to handle Zimbabwe, with a number of countries reluctant to criticize President Robert Mugabe and others taking a harder line.

Also See: British press condemn Mugabe

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