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Tue, Apr 1st - 7:33PM

Overthrowing Robert Mugabe

Dictator for life Robert Mugabe is near the end of his reign.

Zimbabwe's opposition said they were on the verge of taking power today after dismissing speculation that they would negotiate a managed exit for veteran President Robert Mugabe.

Both opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and Mugabe's government strongly denied foreign media speculation that a deal had been reached to arrange the departure of Mugabe after 28 years of uninterrupted power.

"There is no discussion and this is just a speculative story," Tsvangirai told a news conference when asked about reports that his aides and ruling ZANU-PF party officials had negotiated a deal.

Brushing aside projections showing he would fail to win an absolute majority and would be forced into a runoff against Mugabe, Tsvangirai said: "Today we face a new challenge, that of governance."

Speculation that Mugabe would stand down voluntarily rather than face a runoff began after ZANU-PF sources and independent monitors said that although Tsvangirai had won, he would fall just short of the 51 percent needed for outright victory.

Mugabe's spokesman George Charamba described reports of an exit deal as "nonsense" and dismissed rumours that the president would address the nation on television tonight.

Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980 but faced an unprecedented challenge in Saturday's elections because of a two-pronged opposition attack and the economic collapse of his once prosperous country, which has reduced much of the population to misery.

A senior Western diplomat in Harare told Reuters the international community was discussing ideas to try to persuade Mugabe to step down, "but I don't think there is anything firm on the table."

There are fears both inside and outside Zimbabwe that the three-week hiatus before a runoff vote would spark serious violence between security forces and militia loyal to Mugabe on one side and MDC supporters on the other.

Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the election stand-off in Zimbabwe could turn into violence but hoped the country would avoid the bloodshed recently witnessed in Kenya after disputed elections there.

"Having just gone through this situation in Kenya, I hope there is not going to be a repeat in Zimbabwe, but given the nature of this you cannot exclude that there will be some violence," Annan, who brokered an end to the crisis in Kenya, told journalists in Lisbon.

The United States said it was time for Zimbabwe's electoral commission to issue results.

"It's clear the people of Zimbabwe have voted for change," said Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the White House National Security Council.

No presidential results have been announced three days after polls closed, fuelling suspicions that Mugabe was trying to avoid defeat by rigging.

But two ZANU-PF party sources said today its projections showed Tsvangirai getting 48.3 percent against Mugabe's 43 percent, with former finance minister Simba Makoni taking 8 percent.

Latest results from the parliamentary election showed ZANU-PF with one more seat than the mainstream MDC, and five seats going to a breakaway faction of the opposition. 176 seats have now been announced from a total of 210.

Seven of Mugabe's ministers have lost their seats.

Tsvangirai and many foreign governments urged the electoral commission to speed up result announcements. He said the MDC would announce its own tally of the final result on Wednesday.

The opposition and international observers said Mugabe rigged the last presidential election in 2002. But some analysts say the groundswell of discontent over an economy in freefall is too great for him to fix the result this time without risking major unrest.

Zimbabweans are suffering the world's highest inflation of more than 100,000 percent, food and fuel shortages, and an HIV/AIDS epidemic that has contributed to a steep drop in life expectancy.

The opposition is expected to unite behind one candidate if there is a runoff, which would be held three weeks after last Saturday's election.

Learn More: Robert Mugabe: Zimbabwe's Dictator for Life?

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Tue, Apr 1st - 12:20PM

Poorest nations being left out in the cold on global warming
BANGKOK - Outraged poor nations bearing the brunt of global warming have become increasingly bold in UN-led climate talks, but some worry that recent trysts of large countries are leaving them out in the cold.

A grouping of 192 countries under the United Nations is leading the way in negotiating a groundbreaking climate change treaty, and most of its members are currently in Bangkok to try to hammer out a two-year work plan.

The meeting comes soon after the United States chaired a meeting of 16 nations most responsible for global warming, and ahead of a special climate summit on the sidelines of the Group of Eight summit of rich nations.

"We haven't been invited to either of those processes," said Espen Ronneberg, a Samoa-based climate change advisor to the Association of Small Island States, on the sidelines of the Bangkok talks.

"We need to have a global consensus on climate change, so to have a separate process that is not completely inclusive is not that helpful."

While major developing nations such as China and India are part of the big initiatives, the Group of 77, a bloc of developing nations, said it has not been invited.

"The balance has to come from everybody, all the representative groups, being around the table. Not specialised specific groups which have almost the same purpose -- that's a problem," said Byron Blake, deputy representative to the United Nations of current Group of 77 chair Antigua and Barbuda.

The world has until 2009 to draft a new pact on battling global warming, which should come into force by 2012, when current Kyoto Protocol targets for rich nations to slash greenhouse gas emissions expire.

A report by the world's leading climate scientists last year warned that drought, floods and storms will increase as global temperatures rise, putting the health of millions at risk and hitting the poor countries hardest.

As they see climate change begin to effect their environments and economies, impoverished nations are becoming more confident and vocal, said Antonio Hill, policy adviser to development group Oxfam.

"There is a very dramatic difference between this year and last year in the negotiations versus 10 years ago or even five years ago," he said.

Developing countries want the rich world to commit to the most ambitious cuts in greenhouse gas emissions -- which trap the sun's heat and cause global warming -- and pledge to transfer 'green' technologies and fund climate change-battling initiatives in poorer countries.

Many rich nations led by the United States, however, are pressing for developing countries also to commit to slashing emissions. They argue that the lines have blurred between rich and poor nations, with China expected soon to be the world's top emitter.

US President George W. Bush launched his own climate initiative gathering 16 large nations responsible for 80 percent of harmful emissions, which met two months ago in Hawaii.

Japan, meanwhile, will hold separate talks on the sidelines of the G8 meeting in July, and has invited Australia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Korea and South Africa to join the G8 nations.

In mid-March, Japan hosted to a 20-nation climate meeting in suburban Tokyo.

The UN's climate chief Yvo de Boer told AFP that the new initiatives could be very constructive, so long as they feed back into the UN-led efforts.

"The (US-led) major economies process and the outcome of the G8 meeting last year very clearly recognises that there is only one place where the real negotiations happen and that's the (UN) Convention on Climate Change," he said.

Blake urged big polluters to listen to all of the voices from the developing world, rather than focus on exclusive sideline initiatives.

"It is almost a defensive move by a club of people who have been the cause of the major problems," Blake told AFP.

"Naturally they are going to see how to create a so-called solution which will have least impact on themselves, where they have to make the least contribution," he added.

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