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Mozambique president agrees to meet with former rebel head

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Rebel leader of former Mozambican rebel movement Renamo, Afonso Dhlakama poses outside his hut on April 10, 2013 in Gorongosa's mountains, Mozambique. Mozambique's President Armando Guebuza is willing to meet Dhlakama after tensions between their movements erupted into deadly violence, the government spokesman said. (AFP/File)

Mozambique's President Armando Guebuza is willing to meet the commander of former rebels after tensions between their movements erupted into deadly violence, the government spokesman said Sunday.

"The head of state is open to receive Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama next week in Maputo," government spokesman Alberto Nkutumula told AFP.

Bloody clashes since April marked increasingly strained relations between ruling party Frelimo and Renamo.

Last Monday armed men attacked a military convoy in central province Sofala.

Three days earlier armed groups fired on a bus and two trucks, killing at least two civilians.

Renamo distanced itself from many attacks, which mostly occurred in its strongholds in the centre of the country.

But authorities now demand the movement, which is also the official opposition party, lay down its weapons before any peace talks continue.

"As starting point the government will demand the disarming of Renamo's men," said Nkutumula.

The two parties will start another round of talks on Monday after previous negotiations failed.

Renamo spokesman Fernando Mazanga said last Friday a meeting between the leaders was "necessary and urgent".

Though the government has played down the violence, there are fears of a return to a 16-year civil war that had destroyed the economy and killed one million people by the time it ended in 1992.

The unrest has threatened exports from key coal mines in the northwest. Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto suspended rail transport after suspected sabotage derailed a goods train on Monday.