Zimbabwe's Morgan Tsvangirai takes refuge in Dutch embassy

Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who has pulled out of a presidential election because of violence, sought refuge overnight in the Dutch embassy, officials of that country have said.

There was no immediate confirmation from Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change. The Dutch foreign ministry said he had not requested asylum but was welcome to stay for his own security.

Earlier the MDC said police raided its Harare headquarters and took away more than 60 victims of the violence, in which it says nearly 90 of its supporters have been killed by militias backing President Robert Mugabe. Those detained included women and children.

Tsvangirai, who pulled out of the June 27 vote on Sunday, saying his supporters would risk their lives if they voted, said on Monday he was ready to negotiate with Mugabe's ZANU-PF party, but only if the violence stopped.

He pressed regional leaders to push for a postponement of the vote or for Mugabe to step down. But the government said Tsvangirai's withdrawal came too late to call off the election.

Concern mounted both within and outside Africa over Zimbabwe's political and economic crisis, which has flooded neighbouring states with millions of refugees. Both the African Union and Southern African Development Community (SADC) were discussing the situation following Tsvangirai's pullout.

Former colonial power Britain said Mugabe must be declared an illegitimate leader and sanctions should be stiffened against his supporters.

Tsvangirai told South Africa's 702 Radio: "We are prepared to negotiate with ZANU-PF but of course it is important that certain principles are accepted before the negotiations take place. One of the preconditions is that this violence against the people must be stopped,"

Several foreign governments have urged a national unity government to end Zimbabwe's dire crisis. This has previously been rejected by both sides.

Mugabe, 84, who has been in power since independence from Britain in 1980, has vowed never to hand over to the opposition, branding them puppets of the West.

He denies his supporters are responsible for the violence, which broke out after Mugabe and ZANU-PF lost elections on March 29. Tsvangirai fell short of an absolute majority, forcing next Friday's run-off.

The former guerrilla commander has presided over a slide into economic chaos, including 80 percent unemployment and the world's highest inflation rate of at least 165,000 percent.

The African Union's top diplomat, Jean Ping, said he was consulting with AU Chairman Jakaya Kikwete, the Tanzanian President, with SADC and with South African President Thabo Mbeki - the region's designated mediator on Zimbabwe - to see what could be done following Tsvangirai's withdrawal.

"This development and the increasing acts of violence in the run-up to the second round of the presidential election, are a matter of grave concern to the Commission of the AU," he said.

Angola's foreign ministry said SADC foreign ministers were meeting in Luanda on Monday to discuss the Zimbabwe crisis and might issue a statement later in the day.

Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa, the current SADC chairman, said on Sunday the run-off must be postponed "to avert a catastrophe in this region."

Zambian Foreign Minister Kabinga Pande told Reuters a SADC security troika of Angola, Swaziland and Tanzania would propose the next move by the regional body.

Troika foreign ministers last week asked their presidents to take urgent action "to save Zimbabwe", saying a free and fair election was impossible.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said it was still looking forward to a credible electoral process on Friday.

"I don't believe that the level of violence in the country is such that a credible election is impossible. We don't have a war. We will be able to hold credible elections," ZEC chairman George Chiweshe told African election monitors in Harare.

Renaissance Capital investment bank said in a research note that the opposition withdrawal was likely to delay talks on a national unity government. It said Zimbabwe risked economic collapse with the real inflation rate at around 5 million percent.

There were also concerns the worsening crisis would hit South Africa's rand currency, RBC Dominion Securities said.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
The Queen and the letter sent to Charlie
Arts and Entertainment
Eurovision Song Contest 2015
EurovisionGoogle marks the 2015 show
Two lesbians hold hands at a gay pride parade.
peopleIrish journalist shares moving story on day of referendum
Arts and Entertainment
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
booksKathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
Liz Kendall played a key role in the introduction of the smoking ban
newsLiz Kendall: profile
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?