Zimbabwe police deny arrest of US diplomats and Tsvangirai

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Police in Zimbabwe said Friday they were involved in a brief stand-off with main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in the south of the country after he refused to stop at a roadblock.

Police spokesman, Wayne Bvudzijena denied the opposition leader had been held or detained, as his party claimed to the international media shortly after the incident Friday morning.

Bvudzijena said Tsvangirai, who locks horns with President Robert Mugabe in a presidential election run-off 27 June, was later allowed to proceed to a campaign meeting near the second city, Bulawayo. “He (Tsvangirai) and his convoy had refused to stop at the road block and tried to crash through,” he said.

This is the second similar stand-off incident between the police and Tsvangirai in three days in the same area.

On Wednesday, the opposition leader claimed he had been detained by police on his way to Bulawayo after a campaign rally. But Bvudzijena said Tsvangirai was never detained, as he voluntarily went to a local police station to accompany a suspicious-looking South African-registered vehicle in his convoy which the police had detained.

“There is this insinuation that the force was stopping certain people from carrying out their political activities and campaigns. I want to reiterate that the police have nothing to do with this,” the spokesman said.

He also denied police Thursday detained British and American diplomats north of Harare, saying the embassy staff had similarly refused to stop at a check point, to identify themselves.

The diplomats had gone to Bindura, a town north of Zimbabwe, to investigate alleged cases of violence by government supporters against opposition members.

Bvudzijena said police gave a chase after the diplomats refused to stop at a road block and sped away. “The situation was amicably resolved and they (diplomats) were allowed to go,” he said.

The incident prompted swift condemnation from London and Washington, which both said they would raise it at the UN Security Council.

A government official, speaking on condition of annonymity, said authorities suspected the police stand-offs with Tsvangirai and the diplomats were orchestrated by Washington and London to embarass Mugabe in Rome, Italy, where he was attending a Food and Agriculture Organisation summit.

“They (incidents) timed with the president’s visit to Italy this week. They are mere publicity stunts,” he said.

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