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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 February 2007, 11:00 GMT
Mugabe pledges not to step down
Robert Mugabe
Robert Mugabe admitted the standard of living had declined
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has repeated in a televised interview to mark his 83rd birthday that he has no intention of stepping down.

Mr Mugabe criticised colleagues who have been debating when he will retire and who should replace him.

Mr Mugabe, who retains an iron grip after nearly 27 years in power, said they were resorting to nonsense.

The state-run Herald newspaper devoted 16 pages of pictures and messages to Mr Mugabe in their Wednesday edition.

The same newspaper also announced that police have imposed a three-month ban on political rallies and protests in townships to try to calm tensions, following violence at the weekend.

The opposition have likened the move to "a state of emergency".

Mr Mugabe's supporters are preparing a large party in the central city of Gweru at the weekend to mark his birthday and had sought donations from the population.

Critics say it is a huge waste of money, when so much of the population is impoverished.

Struggle for survival

In the rambling hour-long television interview, Mr Mugabe said there would come a day when he would go but at the moment there were no vacancies.

"Can you see any vacancies? The door is closed," he told his interviewer.

People could talk about the process of succession, he said, but not with a view to pushing him out of office now.

And he had some sharp words for those who may be in the running to succeed him.

President Mugabe said there were high-ranking, ambitious people who were looking at themselves.

Asked about Zimbabwe's deepening economic crisis, Mr Mugabe denied that the economy was sinking, though he admitted that there was a decline in the standard of living.

Last week the annual rate of inflation shot up to nearly 1,600%.

The BBC's Southern Africa correspondent Peter Biles says his comments are unlikely to offer much comfort to ordinary people whose daily lives have become a struggle for survival.

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