Maputo - Mozambique's opposition leader has broken off talks with the government aimed at solving their 15-month election dispute, President Joaquim Chissano said.

Chissano told reporters on Thursday night that Renamoleader Afonso Dhlakama had come into their third meeting prepared to break off talks.

Renamo and the ruling Frelimo party waged a brutal 16-year-civil war after Mozambique achieved independence from Portugal in 1975. Tensions between the two parties have risen since the 1999 election.

Renamo has refused to recognise Frelimo's victory in that poll, claiming ballots were rigged. International observers said the election was free and fair, but RENAMO has demanded new elections.

The talks on Thursday were to resolve disputes regarding the election, the killing of 41 people in anti-government demonstrations in November and the deaths of 83 Renamo supporters in a jail in northern Mozambique two weeks later.

Dhlakama also demanded Chissano appoint Renamo governors for provinces where the opposition party won a majority of the vote.

Chissano refused.

"Our constitution says the president forms the government, and appoints the governors," Chissano told reporters.

Dhlakama did not attend the news conference, but his representative, Jafar Gulamo, said the opposition leader would explain his position soon.

The government was delaying the negotiations, he said before walking out of the news conference.

Chissano left hope for a resolution to the dispute.

"We are open to dialogue," he said. - Sapa-AP