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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 January 2008, 15:08 GMT
ANC behind Zuma for SA president
Jacob Zuma
Jacob Zuma has always maintained his innocence
South Africa's ruling African National Congress has confirmed that its newly elected leader Jacob Zuma will be the party's presidential candidate in 2009.

The ANC's National Executive Committee announcement comes despite last month's decision by state prosecutors to lay fresh corruption charges against him.

The ANC expressed "grave misgivings" about the timing of those charges.

President Thabo Mbeki, who was defeated in his bid to remain ANC leader last year, stayed away from the NEC meeting.

But the ANC said nothing should be read into his absence, and played down talks of a split between party and government policy.

Mr Zuma's corruption trial is due to begin in August.

In 2006, he was acquitted on charges of rape and previous graft charges were put on hold.

'Fairness and justice'

The BBC's Peter Biles in Johannesburg says the ANC, which is marking its 96th anniversary, is standing squarely behind Mr Zuma during what it described as "trying times".

Mr Zuma and his fourth wife Nompumelelo Ntuli at their Zulu wedding ceremony
Mr Zuma married his fourth wife at a ceremony over the weekend

Just after Mr Zuma's election last month, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) charged him with corruption, fraud, racketeering and money laundering.

The charges are believed to be linked to a controversial $5bn arms procurement deal by the South African government in 1999.

"The ANC seeks no special treatment for its president; only fairness and justice," the NEC said in a statement after its meeting on Monday.

But it expressed concerned about "the general conduct of the NPA in this case, including inconsistency in the application of its mandate and leaking of information to the media".

'No scores'

Mr Zuma, who was first tried for corruption in 2005, has always maintained his innocence.

Played key role in fight against apartheid
Plagued by corruption allegations
Acquitted on rape charges
Seen as charismatic

ANC treasurer Matthews Phosa told reporters that Mr Zuma would fight his corruption case "with every sinew in his body".

Mr Phosa insisted that the party's new NEC, which is dominated by supporters of Mr Zuma, had no scores to settle with anyone.

He said the ANC would work "flat out" to unite after the recent divisions over its leadership.

Correspondents say Mr Zuma seems undaunted by the hurdles he faces and has said he will not stand down from office unless he is found guilty.

Over the weekend, he married his fourth wife and the mother of his two youngest children, Nompumelelo Ntuli, in a closely guarded, traditional Zulu ceremony at his rural homestead of Nkandla.

Mr Zuma was formerly South Africa's deputy president, before being fired in 2005 when his financial adviser, Schabir Schaik, was found guilty of corruption and jailed for 15 years in connection with the arms deal.

ANC's secretary general on supporting Jacob Zuma

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