U.S. concerned about Mozambique violence, urges dialogue

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Tuesday urged Mozambique's government and the Renamo opposition movement to "move back from the brink" and take steps to quell an escalation in tensions that many worry could disrupt the country's strong economic growth.

The Renamo former rebel group declared on Monday it was terminating a 1992 peace accord that ended a 1975-1992 civil war, complaining that government forces overran base of opposition leader Afonso Dhlakama in the Gorongosa forest.

"We are deeply concerned by the escalation in violence between government security forces and members of the opposition party Renamo," said U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf. "We are encouraging the two parties to take visible and decisive steps to de-escalate the current tense environment."

Mozambique media reported on Tuesday that suspected Renamo guerrillas fired on a police station at Maringue, just north of the Gorongosa district, but no casualties were reported.

Asked whether the attack could provoke more violence, Harf said: "We are deeply concerned by this violence and this escalation and are urging all sides to take steps to move back from the brink and de-escalate what has been happening."

Dhlakama, who has struggled to recover from a string of election defeats by the ruling Frelimo party, is widely regarded as a spent political force with little power to drag the country back into a civil war.

He has complained that the Frelimo-led government has monopolized political and economic power.

Mozambique's economy is set to grow by 7 percent this year - one of the fastest in Africa - and investors such as Brazil's Vale, London-listed Rio Tinto, Italy's Eni and U.S. oil firm Anadarko are working to develop some of the world's largest untapped coal and gas reserves.

Renamo raids in April and June in central Mozambique had already caused alarm. They killed at least 11 soldiers and police and six civilians and forced a temporary suspension of coal exports sent by rail to the coast.

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Christopher Wilson)

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