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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 February 2008, 23:57 GMT
Zimbabwe police licensed to shoot
Zimbabwe police - file photo
Police have been licensed to use more than just batons
Zimbabwe's police chief says officers will be ready to use firearms if the country's forthcoming elections spark violence like that seen in Kenya.

Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri urged political parties to avoid clashes with police before the 29 March presidential and parliamentary votes.

Speaking to reporters, he said "machetes, axes, bows and arrows can not put anybody into office".

Earlier this month, Zimbabwe banned the carrying of weapons in public.

Mr Chihuri said the Public Order and Security Act allowed a police officer to use firearms "if he finds other methods to be ineffective or inappropriate".

"There has been talk in some opposition circles and civic organisations of street protests or Kenya-style riots if the ballot does not go in the favour of one's political party."

He was referring to ethnic and political violence in Kenya which has seen at least 1,500 people killed since a disputed presidential election in December.

Economic crisis

Both President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai have urged their supporters to refrain from violence.

The two launched their election campaigns last weekend.

Mr Mugabe's launch coincided with the celebration of his 84th birthday. He has been in power since Zimbabwe gained independence from Britain in 1980.

The country is suffering an economic crisis, with annual inflation of 100,000% and unemployment at 80%. There are also severe food and fuel shortages.

Many of Zimbabwe's problems have been blamed by the opposition and Western countries on the policies of President Mugabe.

Mr Mugabe has blamed a British plot.

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