updated 9/7/2008 4:56:26 PM ET 2008-09-07T20:56:26

If Robert Mugabe cannot agree at the negotiating table to surrender most of his powers, he should put the decision to his people in a new election, the main opposition leader said Sunday.

Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai, in his first major speech since entering into power-sharing talks with Mugabe, said he was proposing that he be head of government and Mugabe, who has ruled since independence from Britain in 1980, be head of state — the latter a largely ceremonial position.

If Mugabe doesn't accept, "let's go for elections under international supervision and see who will carry the day," Tsvangirai told thousands of people gathered in the central town of Gweru for a rally marking his party's ninth anniversary.

The power-sharing talks have stalled over who should wield the most power in a unity government.

"We should not be pushed into a deal," Tsvangirai said. "We would rather have no deal than get a bad deal."

"We have time on our side. We have the people on our side," Tsvangirai said.

Mugabe threatening to name Cabinet
Mugabe has been threatening in recent days to name a Cabinet without input from Tsvangirai. The opposition says that would undermine the talks. Mugabe has yet to follow through on the threat, raising the possibility he made it only to pressure Tsvangirai at the negotiating table.

Tsvangirai also had veiled criticism Sunday for South African President Thabo Mbeki, who has been mediating the talks. Some see Mbeki's policy of quiet diplomacy as appeasing Mugabe, and Tsvangirai has in the past called Mbeki biased and asked that he be replaced as mediator.

"The biggest problem we have is there are people who are putting pressure on the MDC, not (on) Mugabe," Tsvangirai said.

Tsvangirai's party won the most votes in legislative and presidential elections in March. Mugabe subsequently held a one-man presidential runoff that followed an onslaught of state-sponsored violence on Tsvangirai's supporters and was widely denounced as a sham.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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