'Deal or no deal' threat to Mugabe

If Robert Mugabe cannot agree at the negotiating table to surrender most of his powers, he should put the decision to his people in a new election, the main opposition leader said.

Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai, in his first major speech since entering into power-sharing talks with Mugabe, said he was proposing that he be head of government and Mugabe, who has ruled since independence from Britain in 1980, be head of state - the latter a largely ceremonial position.

If Mugabe doesn't accept, "let's go for elections under international supervision and see who will carry the day", Mr Tsvangirai gathered in the central town of Gweru for a rally marking his party's ninth anniversary.

The power-sharing talks have stalled over who should wield the most power in a unity government.

"We should not be pushed into a deal," Mr Tsvangirai said. "We would rather have no deal than get a bad deal."

"We have time on our side. We have the people on our side."

Mugabe has been threatening in recent days to name a Cabinet without input from Mr Tsvangirai. The opposition says that would undermine the talks. Mugabe has yet to follow through on the threat, raising the possibility he made it only to pressure Mr Tsvangirai at the negotiating table.

Mr Tsvangirai also had veiled criticism yesterday for South African president Thabo Mbeki, who has been mediating the talks. Some see Mr Mbeki's policy of quiet diplomacy as appeasing Mugabe, and Mr Tsvangirai has in the past called Mr Mbeki biased and asked that he be replaced as mediator.

"The biggest problem we have is there are people who are putting pressure on the MDC, not (on) Mugabe," Mr Tsvangirai said.

Mr Tsvangirai's party won the most votes in legislative and presidential elections in March. Mugabe subsequently held a one-man presidential run-off that followed an onslaught of state-sponsored violence on Mr Tsvangirai's supporters and was widely denounced as a sham.