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African leaders broker deal to stop violence

But two more farms were invaded and three hostages taken this weekend in Zimbabwe.

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Continuing violence over the weekend here cast doubts over a deal proposed by neighboring African leaders to settle Zimbabwe's simmering crisis.

South African President Thabo Mbeki, a frequent diplomatic campaigner for democratic rule, and Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano, who leads one of the continent's fastest-growing economies, put their international reputations at risk to bail out Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe.

Precise details of the proposal and Mr. Mugabe's reaction remain unknown. But the Southern African presidents on Friday proposed to publicly back Mugabe and use their influence to win British and International Monetary Fund support for a land-resettlement scheme. In exchange, Mugabe was to withdraw squatters from commercial farms, halt violence, restore the rule of law, and hold free parliamentary elections.

Mr. Mbeki asserted publicly that the crisis was about land, and that Britain and the United States had been wrong to walk away from financial pledges to Mugabe. Mbeki did not acknowledge the wave of political violence and house burnings perpetrated by war veterans and ruling-party supporters against the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. The MDC has rapidly grown in Zimbabwe, and managed to defeat a new constitution drafted by Mugabe in February.

On Sunday, the head of the war veterans' association, Chenjerai Hunzvi - or "Hitler" as he is known from his independence war nom de guerre - held the first of what he said would be a series of conciliatory meetings with veterans and seven white farmers.

War veterans' promises

On a game farm occupied by war veterans outside Victoria Falls, Mr. Hunzvi promised an end to violence in exchange for cooperation on plans to transfer white-owned land to blacks.

Hunzvi declared in an interview with the Monitor that he was concerned only with land and had no interest in halting violence aimed at supporters of the opposition MDC. "Without correction of the land issue, there is no need to diffuse the violence," Hunzvi said. "In America you had the Boston Tea Party, and it was violent. Why do I care to diffuse violence against MDC?"

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