- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 25, 2008

HARARE, Zimbabwe (Agence France-Presse) — Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai arrived home Saturday after a six-week absence vowing to end the near three-decade rule of veteran President Robert Mugabe in next month’s election.

Despite fears of an assassination plot and the threat of treason charges, Mr. Tsvangirai returned home looking relaxed and launched into a blistering attack on Mr. Mugabe ahead of a June 27 presidential run-off between the two men.

“As sure as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, Mugabe will not win in the second round,” he told reporters in his first press conference since returning from South Africa.

Mr. Tsvangirai also rejected the idea of a coalition government with Mr. Mugabe, which some have suggested would allow the 84-year-old leader a graceful exit and prevent further violence.

“There is no government of national unity on the table,” he said. “There has been so much speculation but I don’t see how that is going to be implemented.”

Mr. Tsvangirai had been abroad since shortly after a first round of elections on March 29, lobbying regional leaders to pressure Mr. Mugabe to hold elections under the watchful eye of international observers.

The former trade union leader defeated Mr. Mugabe in the first round, but not by enough to secure an outright victory.

The aftermath of the disputed first-round election, the results of which were delayed by nearly five weeks, has been marked by violence that the opposition claims is designed to rig the runoff.

Rights groups and the United Nations have said the attacks are being directed at followers of Mr. Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), with pro-government militias accused of a campaign of terror in the countryside.

Mr. Tsvangirai, who visited victims of the political violence in hospital before the press conference, said the attacks on his supporters would backfire on the ruling ZANU-PF Party.

“The violence is the most disastrous policy they have implemented,” Mr. Tsvangirai said.

Mr. Mugabe, now fighting for his political life, has acknowledged a “disastrous” first-round campaign.

He is to kick off his campaign today with a keynote speech in Harare and a rally by his supporters.