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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 December, 2004, 12:13 GMT
Mugabe moves against party rivals
Robert Mugabe
Mr Mugabe, 81, is unlikely to contest polls due in 2008
Deep splits have emerged in Zimbabwe's ruling party as delegates gather for the opening of the Zanu-PF congress.

Seven provincial party leaders were suspended for opposing President Robert Mugabe's choice of a new vice-president, state media reports.

Controversial Information Minister Jonathan Moyo was also severely reprimanded for campaigning against the nomination of Joyce Mujuru.

Correspondents say the splits result from a campaign to succeed Mr Mugabe.

The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation described the purge as "the night of the long knives".

Teenage fighter

Parliamentary speaker Emmerson Mnangagwa, who had been seen as Mr Mugabe's choice to replace him when he eventually steps down, had coveted the post of vice-president.

The Zanu-PF provincial chairmen and Mr Moyo had reportedly attended a meeting held to discuss how to block Mrs Mujuru's nomination in favour of Mr Mnangagwa.

Mr Mugabe reportedly now favours Water Resources Minister Joyce Mujuru, whose husband, retired General Solomon Mujuru, is seen as a kingmaker within Zanu-PF.

Mr Mugabe, 81, is not thought likely to stand for re-election when his current term of office expires in 2008.

Mrs Mujuru, 49, a former teenage guerrilla fighter with little formal education, is not seen as a likely presidential candidate.

She is set to become the first female vice-president of both Zanu-PF and the country.

Meanwhile, in a BBC interview, Zanu-PF spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira has called for improved relations between Zimbabwe and Britain.

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