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Last Updated: Saturday, 16 December 2006, 09:02 GMT
Zambian U-turn on protests ban
Michael Sata
Michael Sata is a long-time opponent of the president
The Zambian government has withdrawn a ban on all political gatherings just hours after it was announced.

It now says political parties are free to hold rallies according to the law.

The authorities had earlier warned that anti-government rallies organised by the opposition leader, Michael Sata, posed a serious threat.

His supporters have been challenging the results of September's presidential election, which was officially won by incumbent President, Levy Mwanawasa.

On Thursday, a court dropped charges against Mr Sata of making a false declaration of his assets.

Even after his election defeat, Mr Sata has continued to draw large crowds at his rallies - and he has repeatedly accused the president of, as he puts it, selling Zambia to Chinese and Indian companies.

Mr Sata's Patriotic Front party had said it would challenge the rally ban in court.

Last week, the president said the opposition leader, whose nickname is King Cobra, was on the verge of treason.

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