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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 March 2007, 11:21 GMT 12:21 UK
Mugabe 'to attend crunch talks'
Robert Mugabe
Mr Mugabe has governed Zimbabwe for 27 years
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe will attend an emergency meeting of southern African leaders on Wednesday in Tanzania, state media says.

The talks were called by the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) to discuss the situation in Zimbabwe, after attacks on opposition activists.

Zimbabwe's Herald newspaper said Mr Mugabe would blame the tension on an opposition campaign of violence.

African leaders have been reluctant to criticise Mr Mugabe in public.

They see him as a hero of the fight against colonial rule.

Election decision

But following this month's violence, in which opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai says he was severely assaulted by police, there has been a change in tone from some African leaders.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in hospital
Morgan Tsvangirai was badly beaten earlier this month

Zambia's President Levy Mwanawasa compared Zimbabwe to the "Titanic", while South Africa's deputy foreign affairs minister said it was hard to see how a meltdown could be avoided in the country.

Later this week, top officials in Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party are due to meet to discuss elections scheduled for next year.

Mr Mugabe, 83, who earlier said he wanted a further two-year extension of his current term in office, says he now favours elections next year, and has indicated he will seek re-election.

But there are reports that senior Zanu-PF figures are keen to stand instead.

Mr Mugabe has governed Zimbabwe since independence in 1980.

On Monday, Mr Tsvangirai, said he did not believe Mr Mugabe will still be president in a year's time.

Zimbabweans are grappling with the world's highest inflation - 1,700% a year - while unemployment and poverty are widespread.

Critics blame the economic meltdown on Mr Mugabe's seizure of white-owned farms, while he says he is the victim of a Western plot.

Morgan Tsvangirai on the BBC's Today programme

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