Mozambique ex-rebel boss vows fresh attacks if demands not met

Mozambican civil war commander Afonso Dhlakama on Wednesday vowed fresh attacks against President Armando Guebuza's government forces if they do not retreat from positions close to his remote base camp.

"If he does not withdraw starting today," Dhlakama said, "I will order an attack."

Speaking from his heavily defended bush camp in central Mozambique, the leader of the former rebel group Renamo admitted he ordered a recent attack on a police station that killed four officers.

He said the attack was in response to a raid on Renamo offices that resulted in the arrest of 15 supporters.

"I knew, and I authorised it," Dhlakama said, adding he told supporters to "make war."

It was the latest escalation in a long-running feud between the two men who signed the 1992 Rome General Peace Accords that ended a 15-year war in Mozambique which killed one million people.

Analysts have largely dismissed Dhlakama's threats of a return to civil war as bluster, aimed at regaining some of his significantly depleted political power.

In November, Dhlakama told AFP he was willing to "destroy Mozambique" if Renamo did not get a bigger slice of the country's growing wealth.

"We prefer a poor country than to have people eating from our pot," he said.

Recent deadly clashes have raised the spectre that those threats may be realised.

Dhlakama denied responsibility for a weekend attack against civilian vehicles, in which three people died.

Describing the assault as "an accident" he told reporters: "I'm not here to be investigated, I'm not the commander of a battalion, I am a leader, the president."

Dhlakama said he had received an offer of talks from Guebuza three days ago.

But he ruled out face-to-face talks and said there would be no talks at all unless the 15 Renamo men recently arrested were released.

For now there seems to be a tacit ceasefire.

Guebuza "promised to give orders to his men to stop, I promised as well, I gave my word," Dhlakama said.