Zimbabwe Opposition May Contest Runoff

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- The leader of Zimbabwe's main opposition group said on Tuesday that he would contest a presidential runoff against veteran President Robert Mugabe if only regional observers could be present.

Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai had previously called for unfettered access for international observers, which the government rejected. The MDC accuses Mugabe of trying to intimidate voters and rig the polls.

"At the moment, the obligation is on [regional group] SADC. I am sure that they will fulfill their obligations, especially to send SADC peacekeepers and observers," Tsvangirai said in a telephone interview. "For us, that is sufficient."

After weeks of equivocation, Tsvangirai said on the weekend that he would participate in the runoff to the disputed March 29 polls, but only if international monitors would be present. He also called on the Southern African Development Community to send peacekeepers to instill public confidence in the vote.

The MDC leader traveled to Angola on Saturday to ask President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who heads SADC's security committee, to push for the peacekeepers. The regional grouping has not said whether it would agree to the request.

Zimbabwe's government rejected any preconditions for the runoff, but allowed SADC to monitor the election's first round.

Asked how long he was willing to wait for a runoff, after electoral authorities said there would likely be a delay, Tsvangirai said any timeframe would have to be "reasonable."