JOHANNESBURG - Zimbabwean government and opposition officials met in South Africa yesterday to try to find a way out of their country's crisis, with the opposition pressing for an end to attacks on its supporters.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said he sent a team to Pretoria, the capital, led by his top deputy Tendai Biti to lay down conditions for talks, not to open negotiations.
Chief among the conditions is an end to violence blamed on Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's supporters.
"At present the state-sanctioned violence and repressive legislation employed by the regime is designed to silence the Zimbabwean people," Tsvangirai said in a statement.
His Movement for Democratic Change is "committed to finding a peaceful, negotiated solution to the Zimbabwean crisis and we will take every opportunity to clarify our position and to allow the voice of the Zimbabwean people to be heard," he said.
The opposition says more than 90 of its supporters have been killed since Tsvangirai won a first round of presidential elections in March. He did not win the 50 percent plus one vote necessary to avoid a runoff against second-place finisher Mugabe.
Zimbabwe's crisis has deepened since Mugabe claimed victory in a widely denounced June 27 presidential runoff in which he was the only candidate. Tsvangirai pulled out days before the race because of the violence.
Opposition conditions for holding talks also include a mediator to be appointed alongside President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, who had overseen talks on and off for more than a year. The opposition says Mbeki is biased in Mugabe's favor.
Tsvangirai also called for the release of political prisoners, allowing humanitarian organizations to resume work in Zimbabwe and convening parliament. Tsvangirai's supporters have won control of parliament.