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Tsvangirai seeks unity deal with Mutambara

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of Zimbabwe's main opposition leader on Sunday pledged to bury their differences with political rivals to build a united front against President Robert Mugabe in next year's elections.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has been riven by divisions after nearly half the parliamentary party broke away in 2005 from the main faction led by former union chief Morgan Tsvangirai.

But after a meeting in Harare on Sunday, Tsvangirai loyalists said they wanted to mend fences with the rival faction to prevent 83-year-old Mugabe from exploiting their divisions to secure a sixth term in office in elections expected in March.

"The party resolved to form a united front of all democratic forces against the dictatorship," MDC spokesperson Nelson Chamisa told AFP after the party's national council met in the capital.

"Taking note of the significance of the upcoming elections and aware that every vote counts, the party will endeavour to achieve unity of purpose by all democratic forces in the country and field one candidate in every contested constituency."

Chamisa said the party would soon approach the rival MDC faction led by Arthur Mutambara and other opposition parties and civic groups with their proposal for a joint formation.

The opposition meeting came on the back of Mugabe's endorsement as the ruling party candidate for presidential elections. Once a formidable force which posed the stiffest challenge to Mugabe's stranglehold on power, the MDC split following a row over whether to contest in Senate elections.

Chamisa said the MDC meeting expressed hope in on-going talks with the ruling Zanu PF party brokered by South African President Thabo Mbeki despite concerns over the constitution and the voters' roll.

"The party remains committed to the process of dialogue but declares a deadlock on critical issues such as the constitution and the voters' roll and the general behaviour of Zanu-PF," he said.

The MDC meeting also sought to make amends with ousted founder member and women's assembly leader Lucia Matibenga by inviting her to return to the party and join the national executive. Her dismissal for alleged incompetence threatened to further fragment the party. - AFP

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