MAPUTO Mozambique's Renamo opposition movement rejected an offer of talks with the government on Friday, keeping political tensions high after shootings this month by suspected Renamo gunmen, the deadliest attacks in more than a decade.
Renamo, originally an anti-communist guerrilla group that waged a 1975-1992 civil war in the mineral-rich southern African nation, said the proposed location of the talks in a luxury hotel in the capital was "not dignified enough for the importance of the meeting".
It also objected to the suggested start date for the talks on April 22.
The negotiations proposed by the ruling Frelimo party, Renamo's enemy in the post-independence war, followed the killing of four policemen and three civilians in ambushes by suspected Renamo gunmen this month.
Renamo has denied any involvement in the killings of the civilians, which happened after gunmen ambushed a truck and two buses on the main north-south highway through the nation.
The opposition group's anger stems from its desire to counter Frelimo's almost total political dominance, including its de facto control of the Election Commission, which next month starts voter registration for elections due in the second half of 2014.
Police briefly arrested two senior Renamo officials on Thursday on their way to the party's base in the remote Gorongosa mountains in central Mozambique, although a Renamo spokesman said the reasons for their detention were unclear.
Analysts say Renamo is in no shape to launch a widespread guerrilla campaign but many Mozambicans are worried that even the slightest unrest could derail an unprecedented economic boom based on huge foreign investment in coal mining and natural gas exploration.
The off-shore Rovuma field is believed to hold enough gas to supply Germany, Britain, France and Italy for 15 years, and mining giants Vale and Rio Tinto have invested nearly $10 billion in mines in Tete province, home to some of the world's largest untapped coal deposits.
(Reporting by Marina Lopes; Editing by Ed Cropley)