passports seized

Officials briefly confiscated the passports of Zimbabwe's top opposition leader and two aides as they tried to fly to South Africa yesterday.

Officials briefly confiscated the passports of Zimbabwe's top opposition leader and two aides as they tried to fly to South Africa yesterday.

The seizure kept the three from flying but opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, his general secretary Tendai Biti and a third Movement for Democratic Change official still have time to get to the summit of the Southern African Development Community.

"They have confiscated my passport," Tsvangirai told Associated Press as he left the airport. But shortly afterward party official Nqobizitha Mlilo said the passports had been returned.

Attempts to reach Zimbabwean government officials for comment were not immediately successful.

In South Africa presidential spokesman Mukoni Ratshitanga said South African officials appealed to Zimbabwean officials to allow the opposition team to attend the summit.

President Thabo Mbeki has been mediating power-sharing talks between Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and the opposition. T heir standoff is expected to be a main topic at the SADC summit.

In a statement yesterday Tsvangirai's party called on the SADC, African Union and broader international community "to take a strong position against Mugabe." - Sapa-AP

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