Renamo candidate alleges poll fraud

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A defiant Afonso Dhlakama, the main opposition presidential candidate who once led one of Africa's most notorious rebel movements, deepened Mozambique's election crisis yesterday by defying international appeals to reverse his boycott of the country's first general elections.

He denied that he planned to return to civil war, and said he hoped that the elections yesterday and today would be annulled and new ones organised soon.

'There are no elections in Mozambique now,' Mr Dhlakama said in the central port city of Beira. 'There is nothing.'

Mr Dhlakama issued a warning yesterday to the United Nation' special representative to Mozambique, Aldo Ajello, who has headed the 6,000- strong peace-keeping mission. 'I told Dr Ajello today, please do not provoke me . .

. Play your games, but do not provoke me. Because I am going to become nervous, and I will ask the people to authorise Dhlakama to respond.'

The elections were to be the climax to a two-year UN peace process, at a cost of pounds 632m to create a multi-party democracy from the ruins of a 17-year civil war that has claimed more than 1 million lives and made several million homeless.

'I am not interested in whether the international community accepts or does not accept,' he said. 'The Mozambican people want free and just elections, we do not want a something false.'

Mr Dhlakama, 41, said he had decided to withdraw his Mozambique National Resistance (Renamo), the former South African-backed rebel movement, from the electoral process just hours before the polls opened yesterday because of alleged evidence of plans by President Joaquim Chissano's ruling Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo) to rig the vote.

'We did not go to the elections because we presented our complaints and they were not resolved,' he said. Mr Dhlakama said the National Elections Commission had not accounted for 1.9 million unused registration papers, had not ensured that foreigners could not vote in the elections, and that his party agents were not being transported to the polling booths.

Renamo decided to reject the elections before they had taken place because it did not want to be in the same position in which Jonas Savimbi's Unita rebel movement found itself in Angola two years ago, when it alleged fraud only after it had been defeated at the polls.

'I think my image is cleaner internationally,' he said. 'I do not want to be obliged to accept false results.'

Mr Dhlakama appeared irritated by the international appeals to rejoin the electoral process from the United Nations, Portugal and South Africa, suggesting that those countries were trying to manipulate him, in his words, treating him like 'a boy'. He said the world could not treat him 'like a simple general'.

'I have weight - a lot of influence in Mozambique,' Mr Dhlakama said.

(Photograph omitted)