Opposition Denies Talks On With Mugabe

Zimbabwe's opposition MDC party on Tuesday denied reports it was in negotiations with the governing ZANU-PF on a handover of power by President Robert Mugabe.

Asked about a story on the New York Times website saying Mugabe's advisers were talking to MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai on a transfer of power, party spokesman Nelson Chamisa told Reuters: "I can confirm that there are no talks with Mugabe."

He added: "We were also surprised by those reports but that is not true."

The New York Times said negotiations on a transfer of power came after Mugabe concluded that a runoff election against Tsvangirai would be demeaning.

ZANU-PF sources earlier told Reuters the party's own projections showed Tsvangirai would beat Mugabe in last Saturday's presidential election but would win less than the 51 percent vote needed for outright victory. This would force a runoff vote in three weeks.

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The MDC says Tsvangirai is heading for victory but no official results from the presidential poll have yet been released, fuelling opposition suspicions that Mugabe, president since 1980, is trying to rig the result.

A spokesman for South African President Thabo Mbeki also denied that he had been asked by foreign leaders to mediate a peaceful outcome with Mugabe.

"There is absolutely no truth in that," said Mbeki spokesman Mukoni Ratshitanga, in response to questions on South African media reports.

(Reporting by Macdonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Barry Moody)

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