Hopes of early negotiations to end the crisis in Zimbabwe took a fresh blow today as Robert Mugabe ruled out any talks with the opposition until it recognises him formally as the legitimate President.

Thousands of supporters were ordered to report to Harare Airport in full Zanu regalia to greet Mr Mugabe as he arrived home from a summit of African Union leaders, having dodged serious censure, despite fierce condemnation from countries such as Botswana and Kenya.

Addressing the crowd, Mr Mugabe said that Morgan Tsvangirai should not “delude” himself into thinking the election results could be nullified and that the opposition leader must renounce his claim to the presidency before any dialogue.

Western countries have refused to recognise Mr Mugabe’s victory in the widely discredited vote, in which the he was the sole candidate after Mr Tsvangirai withdrew in the face of mounting violence. The AU, divided over how to deal with the crisis, could agree only on a toothless call for talks leading to the formation of a national unity government.

Emboldened, Mr Mugabe laid down the line over how such dialogue could begin. “I am the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe and that is the reality,” he told supporters. “Everybody has to accept that if they want to dialogue. If they agree on that, and we are satisfied, then we shall go into dialogue and listen to them by way of ideas those votes can never be thrown away.”

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