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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 December 2007, 16:25 GMT
Mugabe to run again for Zanu-PF
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe - 18/07/2007
Robert Mugabe has led Zimbabwe since 1980
Zimbabwe's governing party has endorsed Robert Mugabe as its candidate for next year's presidential elections.

The vote by delegates at the Zanu-PF conference in the capital, Harare, allows the 83-year-old president to seek a sixth term in office in March.

Critics say Mr Mugabe's continued grip on power will prolong the country's deepening economic crisis.

But the veteran leader told his party conference he could not and would not "abandon" his people in hard times.

Zimbabwe's official inflation is given at around 8,000% - the highest in the world.

Last month, the country's chief statistician said there were no longer enough goods in the shops for him to work out the inflation rate.

Mr Mugabe has been in power since independence in 1980 and has resisted pressure to step down.

Cheers

Mr Mugabe's selection was by open acclamation and all 10 of Zanu-PF's provincial bodies backed him.

Their welfare is my welfare. Their suffering is my suffering. I dare not abandon them
President Robert Mugabe

"I did not hear any dissenting voices," John Nkomo, the Zanu-PF chairman said, according to the French news agency.

"It means this congress has fully and unreservedly declared Comrade Robert Gabriel Mugabe as the presidential candidate for next year's presidential elections."

Reuters news agency reported that the announcement was greeted with cheers.

"Every one of them matters to me. Can I let them down?" AP news agency quotes Mr Mugabe as saying during his keynote address to delegates before his endorsement.

"No. Their welfare is my welfare. Their suffering is my suffering. I dare not abandon them," he said.

South Africa has been mediating talks between Mr Mugabe's government and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to prepare for free and fair elections next year.

But last week a faction of the divided MDC said Zanu-PF was not sincere or committed to dialogue.

And in a new report human rights organisation Amnesty International says the opposition continue to suffer beatings, torture and harassment.

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