WELLINGTON: Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe is ready to cede power if elections planned for the troubled African nation do not go his way, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said on Wednesday.
Tsvangirai said he did not believe Mugabe, who disputed election results in 2008 and eventually retained the presidency under a power-sharing deal, would risk another round of violence in Zimbabwe.
He said 88-year-old Mugabe, who has led the country since independence in 1980, wanted to protect his legacy and would abide by the result of a ballot scheduled to be held within the next 12 months.
"I'm sure he will accept the result," Tsvangirai told reporters during an official trip to New Zealand.
"I do not see any reason why he should plunge the country again into another dispute.
"I think he's committed, for his own legacy and the legacy of the country, to move forward and he has to accept the result if it is conducted in a free and fair manner."
Tsvangirai confirmed he would stand against his arch-rival Mugabe in the election, which is set to be held under a new constitution, a draft of which was finalised on Friday.
He described the draft constitution as a "progressive step" which he hoped would help Zimbabwe emerge from decades of violence and instability.
"Although we have suffered, there is no way we can bring back our loved ones," he said.
"We need to open a new chapter. That's why I say revenge should not be on the agenda. There should be reconciliation, rebuilding and reconstruction. That should be the future direction."
To help the country move on and rebuild its economy, Tsvangirai said the international community should ease sanctions if Zimbabwe showed a commitment to staging legitimate elections.
"No country can progress with such measures against it," he said, adding that sanctions had put a "financial squeeze" on the economy, which has stabilised in recent years after hyper-inflation followed the 2008 election.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, who received a briefing on the situation in Zimbabwe from Tsvangirai, said there was a compelling case to lift sanctions if elections went ahead.
"If free and fair elections are held in Zimbabwe, and therefore a free and open voice can be given to the people of Zimbabwe, why wouldn't the global community respond in kind and support that new regime?" he said.
New Zealand imposed sporting and travel sanctions on Zimbabwe in 2002 over alleged human rights abuses by the Mugabe government.