Zimbabwe opposition says govt escalating crackdown

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HARARE, Oct 16 (Reuters) Zimbabwe's main opposition said today President Robert Mugabe's government was escalating a violent crackdown against its members, but said it would not walk away from talks with the ruling party.

Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) are holding talks mediated by South African President Thabo Mbeki, as part of a regional drive to end Zimbabwe's political and economic crisis.

Nelson Chamisa, spokesman for the main MDC opposition party, told journalists the opposition was worried by increased cases of violence against its supporters.

''We have witnessed an escalation in the number of assaults, violence and intimidation against our members, particularly in the rural areas but also in the urban areas,'' Chamisa said.

''This is particularly worrying if you consider the process going on in South Africa. There's no use to be in talks in Pretoria and at war here at home.'' He said the MDC would not pull out of the talks to protest against the government crackdown. Opposition officials have recorded over 4,122 political violence cases since January.

''We know ZANU PF is trying to jeopardise the process, but we want the process to benefit the nation,'' said Chamisa.

The government has also accused the opposition of carrying out and fomenting violence.

Zimbabwe's tough security laws require political parties to notify the police when holding political gatherings, but the opposition says police often ban the meetings without reason.

Mugabe, 83 and in power since independence from Britain in 1980, denies charges of human rights abuses and mismanaging a once vibrant economy, now with world's highest inflation rate.


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