Talks Cover Mugabe Exit Plan

HARARE, Zimbabwe -- Advisers of Zimbabwe's president and main opposition leader are discussing Robert Mugabe relinquishing power, The Associated Press learned Tuesday from a businessman close to the state electoral commission and a lawyer close to the opposition.

The businessman said Mugabe, who in 28 years in power has gone from independence hero to accused despot, has been told he is far behind Tsvangirai in preliminary results from Saturday's presidential elections. Mugabe was told there could be an uprising if he were declared the winner.

Both sources spoke on condition they were not identified because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Several diplomats said they had heard similar reports but could not corroborate the information. Asked about the report in a telephone call, Tendai Biti, secretary-general of Tsvangirai's party, said, "It's rubbish," and hung up.

Zimbabwe's security chiefs have told the Electoral Commission to issue results portraying a close race, to prevent celebrations that could ignite violence with rival party militants, the businessman said.

Political analyst John Makumbe said he had learned from military sources that they would honor the results of the elections. That would indicate a change of heart since the security chiefs the day before the elections warned they would not serve anybody but Mugabe and would not tolerate an opposition victory.