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Emergency summit called on Zimbabwe political crisis

Results not yet released 11 days after election

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Angus Shaw
Associated Press / April 10, 2008

HARARE, Zimbabwe - Zambia called an emergency summit of southern African leaders on the political crisis in Zimbabwe, where the opposition has accused President Robert Mugabe of withholding election results to cling to power.

With no resolution in sight 11 days after the election, President Levy Mwanawasa of Zambia said yesterday that regional leaders will meet Saturday to coordinate their response to the crisis.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai says he won the March 29 election outright and has asked Zimbabwe's High Court to force publication of the results. The court plans to rule Monday, lawyers for Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change and the Election Commission said.

The opposition asserts that Mugabe is delaying release of the results so he can orchestrate a runoff and give ruling party militants time to intimidate rural voters and ensure he does not lose a second vote.

Zambian Information Minister Mike Mulongoti said he was not sure if Mugabe would attend Saturday's summit of the Southern African Development Community. Zambia's president, who currently heads the group, said participants will work to adopt a coordinated regional strategy on Zimbabwe, Zambian state radio reported.

Tsvangirai embarked on a trip around the region yesterday in hopes that neighboring leaders could persuade Mugabe to release the results. He met with President Seretse Ian Khama of Botswana and hoped to travel to four or five other countries before Saturday, opposition officials said.

Tendai Biti, the secretary-general of Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change, said regional leaders at the summit should push for Mugabe to resign.

"We have won this election. We will not participate in a runoff because we won the election," he said.

Still, Tsvangirai made a possible overture toward the ruling party, telling South African radio that he wanted a government that would "create space for everyone." But Mugabe must step down after 28 years in power, he said.

"I think it's time for him to take his retirement," Tsvangirai said from Botswana.

Pressure mounted on Mugabe's government to release the results, with Australia joining appeals from Britain, the former colonial ruler, the United States, the United Nations and the European Union.

"There is simply no excuse for them being withheld more than a week after the poll," Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said in a statement.

Jacob Zuma, leader of South Africa's governing African National Congress, repeated earlier entreaties that "results be announced as a matter of urgency."

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