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Official laments Zimbabwe failure

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said backers of President Robert Mugabe thwarted progress.

HARARE, Zimbabwe - Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said yesterday that his efforts to restore democratic freedoms and the rule of law to Zimbabwe had so far failed.

The former opposition leader in February took his Movement for Democratic Change into a coalition government with longtime autocratic President Robert Mugabe to end Zimbabwe's political deadlock and economic collapse.

But Tsvangirai gave his party's annual convention a bleak assessment of Zimbabwe's situation and said that hard-liners backing Mugabe were frustrating progress.

"We have not yet succeeded in restoring the rule of law," he said. "Our people do not live free from fear, hunger, and poverty."

The official state media remain biased, and there is only limited freedom of movement and expression, he said.

"Our members continue to be the victims of political persecution," Tsvangirai said.

His comments reflected the tensions wracking the so-called unity government. But despite the unhappiness, Tsvangirai has so far shown no sign he will pull his party out of the coalition in protest.

Tsvangirai had been frozen out of office, despite election victories, until Zimbabwe's neighbors forced Mugabe to enter the unity government.

Tsvangirai and more than 1,000 delegates to the two-day convention wore red T-shirts emblazoned with a new party slogan: "Together to the end. Marching to a New Zimbabwe."

Despite agreeing to the coalition government, Mugabe, 85, still seems reluctant to cede real power to Tsvangirai, his former foe.

Recently, for example, Tsvangirai announced an end to restrictions on foreign journalists entering Zimbabwe and to tough licensing rules for local media. Mugabe's spokesman said last week the restrictions would remain in force.

The two men are also in dispute over key appointments of the central-bank governor and the attorney general.