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Mozambican president visits region where violent clashes forced hundreds to flee

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MAPUTO, Mozambique — Mozambique's president travelled to the country's northwest where fighting between government troops and opposition fighters has forced hundreds to flee to neighboring Malawi, state-run radio reported on Tuesday.

Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi has travelled to Tete province, where troops from the Frelimo-led government have clashed with fighters loyal to Renamo, the official opposition party, since early July, Radio Mozambique reported.

Nyusi is to meet with Renamo's longtime leader, Afonso Dhlakama on an unconfirmed date, Radio Mozambique said.

Over the weekend, Dhlakama held a mass rally in the northwestern Maringue area, where he lives. He urged people to preserve peace and stability in Mozambique, and assured his supporters that he would not return the country to war.

Renamo won the second highest number of seats in last year's election, but Dhlakama disputed the result and is calling for autonomy in the northern Mozambique, which is his support base.

District officials in neighboring Malawi counted nearly 700 Mozambican refugees who have taken up temporary shelters in nearby villages. More than 400 of them were children, with reports of more Mozambican citizens still entering the country, said Mwanza district commissioner Gift Rapozo.

A private television station in Mozambique aired footage showing dozens of people crossing the border on foot, many carrying their belongings on their heads.

Negotiators from both political parties, once civil war enemies, have blamed each other for violating a peace accord signed in September last year.

The Mozambican government, run by the Frelimo party, and Renamo fought a bloody civil war from 1977 to 1992. After more than 20 years of peace, fighting broke out between the government and Renamo last year. A peace accord was signed weeks before the election.

Frelimo has ruled Mozambique since independence from Portugal in 1975.

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