11 Jul 2008

Zimbabwe opposition denies substantive talks

7:36 am on 11 July 2008

Zimbabwe's ruling party and the opposition MDC held their first talks on Thursday since the widely condemned re-election of President Robert Mugabe last month, but the opposition denied substantive negotiations had started.

Both sides have been under heavy African and world pressure to enter negotiations since Mr Mugabe's re-election in a 27 June poll boycotted by the opposition because of campaign violence.

Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai said senior officials were attending talks in Pretoria but said they were merely presenting conditions under which negotiations could take place, including an end to violence against the opposition.

"We have stated that no such negotiations can take place while the (ruling) ZANU-PF regime continues to wage war on my party and the people of Zimbabwe. This position has not changed," he said in a statement.

The MDC says more than 100 of its supporters were killed during the campaign by militias loyal to Robert Mugabe and that the violence has continued since the vote.

Mr Tsvangirai said negotiations could not begin until a series of conditions were met including the end of violence, release of 1,500 imprisoned MDC supporters, the resumption of aid by humanitarian organisations and the appointment of a permanent envoy from the African Union.

Western nations led by former colonial ruler Britain and the United States are pushing the U.N. Security Council today or tomorrow to impose sanctions on Mugabe's inner circle, as well as an arms embargo on Zimbabwe.

South Africa, backed in the past by veto wielding council members Russia and China, opposes sanctions.