Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe Saturday vowed to fight to keep his rival from taking power in an upcoming run-off poll as the opposition's number two appeared in court facing a charge carrying a potential death sentence.
"Should this country be taken by traitors... it is impossible," Mugabe said, referring to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in a speech given at the burial of a former independence fighter.
"It shall never happen... as long as we are alive and those who fought for the country are alive," the 84-year-old leader said. "We are prepared to fight for our country and to go to war for it."
Mugabe also raised the specter of war on Friday if MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who officially fell short of an outright majority in the March 29 first round vote, wins the run-off poll on June 27.
The opposition has warned of a campaign of intimidation ahead of the election and claims more than 60 of its supporters have been killed since the March vote.
Meanwhile MDC secretary general Tendai Biti appeared in a Harare court on Saturday facing a treason charge, whose maximum punishment is a death sentence.
He was arrested two days ago when he returned after a long stay in South Africa.
Biti appeared in court in handcuffs and was escorted by an armed police officer but appeared in good health. He was later taken back into police custody.
Biti's lawyer, Lewis Uriri, said he could now have unfettered access to his client. Police had at first refused to reveal his whereabouts, prompting a judge to order them to bring him to court.
Uriri was allowed to visit him and deliver food at Harare's central prison.
After the meeting, Uriri said Biti had been interrogated continuously for 24 hours by three different teams following his arrest.
Police indicated they would bring him to court again on Monday, said Uriri. He was to be taken later to Matapi police station in the western Harare township of Mbare.
Authorities have said they plan to charge Biti for allegedly authoring a document which is said to have contained details of a plot to rig the election outcome.
He is also accused of "communicating and publishing false information prejudicial to the state" for proclaiming victory for his party in the March 29 polls ahead of official results.
The MDC has faced major obstacles in seeking to campaign, and police detained Tsvangirai on Saturday morning for a fifth time in some 10 days, holding him for two hours before releasing him without charge.
Authorities have also banned a series of MDC rallies and on Friday seized two of the opposition's campaign buses, one of which has since been returned, Tsvangirai's spokesman George Sibotshiwe said.
Mugabe, who has ruled since independence in 1980, has blamed the opposition for the increase in violence ahead of the vote, but the U.N. has said the president's supporters are responsible for the bulk of it.
He has frequently portrayed Tsvangirai as a puppet of former colonial power Britain and wealthy whites, thousands of whom lost their land when he launched a controversial program of farm expropriations at the turn of the decade.
"Once again we want to make it clear to the British and Americans that we are no one's subjects and will never be," Mugabe said on Saturday.
"This country shall not again come under the rule and control of the white man, direct or indirect. Never, ever.
He launched a new diatribe against British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who called on Friday for "an end to violence, an end to repression ... and for free and fair elections in Zimbabwe."
"Brown, prime minister of Britain, continues to interfere in our internal affairs, making us a subject matter of British policy as if we remain a permanent colony of Britain," said Mugabe.© Wire reports