MDC head holed up in embassy

The leader of Zimbabwe's opposition party yesterday sought refuge in the Dutch embassy in the capital, Harare, Dutch government officials said.

The leader of Zimbabwe's opposition party yesterday sought refuge in the Dutch embassy in the capital, Harare, Dutch government officials said.

At the same time, the police raided the MDC's headquarters in Harare and about 30 people were reported detained.

The latest developments came a day after Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew from a presidential run-off, scheduled for Friday, saying he could neither take part in "this violent, illegitimate sham of an election process", nor ask his voters to risk their lives in the face of threats from forces backing President Robert Mugabe.

The Dutch foreign ministry said Tsvangirai had not requested asylum but was welcome to stay overnight at the embassy for his own safety.

Dutch television reported that Tsvangirai entered the embassy shortly after the raid on his party's headquarters, according to media reports.

An opposition spokesman, Luke Kamborinyoka, said many people had fled as the raid took place but about 30 people, mainly women and children, were loaded into a bus and taken away to an undisclosed destination.

The roundup of opposition supporters came midway through a day of fast-moving developments, during which Tsvangirai first made a conditional offer of negotiations with Mugabe, then said he was urging southern African nations to press for the postponement of the run-off.

But the raid on the headquarters of the MDC suggested that Mugabe, who declared last week that only God would remove him from office, was in no mood to compromise.

After weeks of mounting violence, Tsvangirai said in Harare on Sunday that his party was facing a war rather than an election "and we will not be part of that war". - Sapa

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