'Complete collapse'

"I won't be intimidated. Even if I am threatened with beheading, I believe this and nothing will ever move me from it: Zimbabwe belongs to us, not the British."

The remarks came after Jendayi Frazer, the US assistant secretary of state for African affairs, called on Mugabe to quit, accusing him of causing the "complete collapse" of Zimbabwe. 

Washington criticised Mugabe for putting his own position at the centre of the debate. 

"Well, last time the world checked, Zimbabwe belonged to the people of Zimbabwe," Sean McCormack, the US state department spokesman, said.

"Again, it's a statement that I think sums up in a concise way what is at the root of Zimbabwe's problems."

Power-sharing threat

Mugabe's Zanu-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) remain deadlocked over a power-sharing deal agreed in September as the economic and humanitarian situation deteriorates.

Morgan Tsvangirai, the prime minister-elect under the terms of the agreement, threatened to pull out of the deal on Friday, saying dozens of members of his party had been abducted.

"The MDC can no longer sit at the same negotiating table with a party that is abducting our members, and other innocent civilians, and refusing to produce any of them before a court of law," he said at a news conference in Gaborone, Botswana's capital.

"If these abductions do not cease immediately, and if all abductees are not released or charged in a court of law by January 1, 2009, I will be asking the MDC's national council to pass a resolution to suspend all negotiations and contact with Zanu-PF."

Mugabe said he had sent letters to Tsvangirai inviting him to be sworn in as prime minister.

"I have sent letters so that they can come and I can swear [in] and appoint them," he told supporters.

"We have not reached a stage where we can say with a degree of certainty that they [the MDC] want to be part of this."

Zimbabwean decision

George Shire, a London-based Zimbabwe analyst, told Al Jazeera: "There is a political settlement deal on the table that offers Zimbabwe a future and hope.

Zimbabwe is reeling from a cholera epidemic which has killed more than 1,000 people [AFP]
"It's up to Zimbabweans to decide whether they think Robert Mugabe should lead them or not."

Mugabe has said African nations lacked the courage to use military force to remove him from power, the state-run Herald newspaper reported.

"How could African leaders ever topple Robert Mugabe - organise an army to come? It is not easy," he was quoted on Friday as saying at a meeting of his party's central committee a day earlier.

"I do not know of any African country that is brave enough to do that."

Botswana's foreign minister and Kenya's prime minister have both called for an end to Mugabe's 28-year rule.

But most of Zimbabwe's neighbours, including South Africa, the regional powerhouse, have rejected the possibility of military intervention and have repeatedly voiced their opposition to the idea.

Kgalema Motlanthe, South Africa's president, has said that he believed the proposed unity government was still the best way to resolve the situation and it should be formed quickly.