HARARE, Zimbabwe Zimbabwe's opposition candidate said Tuesday talks of a unity government with President Robert Mugabe's party were premature, as the idea was raised again as a way to end the violence that has engulfed the country for two months.
Morgan Tsvangirai told reporters in the Zimbabwean capital that he was focused on his campaign for the presidential runoff election, less than three weeks away.
"A government of national unity does not arise," he said, adding that it might be an issue after the vote on June 27.
Earlier Tuesday, a former member of Mugabe's party said that preliminary talks on sharing power were under way. But Mugabe's Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga said he could not confirm reports the two sides were discussing sharing power. An opposition spokesman also refused to comment.
Tsvangirai, 56, beat Mugabe and two other candidates during the first round of presidential voting March 29, but official results did not give him the 50 percent plus one vote necessary to avoid a runoff.
Tsvangirai expressed confidence that he would win the runoff despite the violence and intimidation his supporters have faced since the first round. Human rights groups say Mugabe has engineered the violence to ensure he wins. The opposition leader says 66 of his supporters have been killed.
"Mugabe can beat us but we will vote him out," he said.
The idea of a coalition government has been raised previously, but the sticking point has long appeared to be ZANU-PF's insistence that Mugabe remain president of any coalition government.
Tsvangirai has repeatedly pledged to bring moderate members of Mugabe's party into his administration, but not Mugabe.
South African President Thabo Mbeki has mediated stop-and-start talks between Mugabe's and Tsvangirai's parties. Mbeki has insisted on a media blackout, and his spokesman, Mukoni Ratshitanga, said the reports of renewed talks, which first appeared Tuesday in South Africa's respected Business Day newspaper, were untrue.
But Simba Makoni, a former member of Mugabe's party who finished third in the presidential elections, said preliminary talks on sharing power were under way.
Makoni, speaking at a news conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Tuesday, said the talks could not yet be described as formal negotiations, but that he could "confirm ... that I know that there are communications between and among Zimbabwean leaders at various levels."