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Page last updated at 16:58 GMT, Wednesday, 9 April 2008 17:58 UK

Zimbabwe emergency talks called

Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa
The Zambian president says the region must work together to find a solution

Zambia has called for an emergency meeting of southern African leaders on the Zimbabwean presidential poll delay.

The announcement by the Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa marks the first move by Zimbabwe's neighbours to intervene since the elections.

South Africa's governing party leader Jacob Zuma has criticised the 11-day delay in announcing results.

His approach contrasts with South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki, who has urged patience.

Presidential and parliamentary elections were held on 29 March but the presidential results have still not been released.

President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party lost its majority in parliament for the first time since independence in 1980.

I don't think it augurs very well
ANC's Jacob Zuma

The opposition party - Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) - is still hoping that legal action in the High Court will lead to the immediate release of the presidential results.

The judge in charge of reviewing the petition has said he will try to come to a decision on Monday.

"Conscious of the urgency of the matter, I am of the view that if I exert myself to study the submissions, I should be ready with a judgement on Monday," said judge Tendai Uchena.

The EU has made its most outspoken remarks so far on Zimbabwe's elections.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the votes of Zimbabweans must count and that they want change.

Solution

Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa, who chairs the 14-nation South African Development Community (Sadc), said the entire region needed to work together to find a solution. The meeting is due to start on Saturday.

South Africa's governing party leader Mr Zuma said the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) should have announced the results by now.

"I think keeping the nation in suspense, and as you know, the Zimbabwean issue has become an international issue - it is almost keeping the international community in suspense - I don't think it augurs very well," the African National Congress leader said.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai met Mr Zuma on Monday.

He is touring southern Africa in a bid to get regional leaders to put pressure on the Zimbabwean government to announce the results of the presidential election.

Mr Tsvangirai has already met the president of Botswana - and plans to go on to Zambia and Mozambique.

Mr Tsvangirai's party says its activists have been attacked in a campaign of "massive violence" around the country since the polls - although is unconfirmed by reporters and denied by the government.

Invasions

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe's state television says that war veterans have occupied 11 farms in the north-east of the country, Reuters news agency reports.

The farm invasions were ignited by reports that some white farmers were returning to their former properties anticipating the opposition MDC's victory.

Robert Mugabe (5 March 2008)
Robert Mugabe's party says votes for him may have been undercounted

"We managed to remove all the invaders from the occupied farms after realising that they were now committing crimes such as looting farm equipment, produce and threatening to kill the farm owners," police assistant commissioner Mhekia Tanyanyiwa said.

 "As of now the situation is under control and the affected white farmers are safe," he said.

A BBC contributor in Masvingo says police on Tuesday fought running battles with farm invaders who had looted farm equipment and produce.

Trevor Gifford, president of the Commercial Farmers Union, said farmers had not been beaten.

"It's been more verbal abuse, racial rhetoric and being pushed around and having fingers poked in ones' face and it's been very, very intimidating," he told the BBC.

Our World affairs correspondent Paul Reynolds says that Western governments believe the delay in announcing results is designed to buy time to organise intimidation.

It is possible, the governments think, that there will be no re-run and that Robert Mugabe will declared the winner after a "recount", he says.

If all else fails, there could be martial law, though the loyalty of the military rank and file might be in doubt, he adds.

Independent and ruling party projections say Mr Tsvangirai gained most votes but not the 50% needed to win outright.

The MDC says he gained 50.3% of the vote, but Zanu-PF has demanded a recount of the vote.




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Zambian information minister on why a meeting is needed



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