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Page last updated at 14:10 GMT, Sunday, 20 April 2008 15:10 UK

Call for action on Zimbabwe 'war'

Election official opens a ballot box as part of the vote recount in Domboshava, east of Harare, on Saturday
Zimbabwe's opposition is suspicious of the motives for the recount

African leaders and the UN must act to ensure democracy triumphs in Zimbabwe, says a key opposition figure.

MDC secretary general Tendai Biti said Zimbabwe was now "in a war situation" following disputed polls on 29 March.

He said 10 people had been killed, hundreds injured and thousands displaced in post-election violence.

After a request from the ruling party, electoral officials are conducting a partial recount of the parliamentary vote, won by the MDC.

Votes are being recounted in 23 constituencies, a process election officials say could take more than three days to complete.

Three weeks after polls were held, the presidential result is still unknown.

The opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai - who has fled the country - insists he won the presidential vote outright, and has demanded that the results be released.

'Frustration'

Speaking at a news conference in Johannesburg, neighbouring South Africa, Mr Biti urged African leaders and the United Nations to prevent a slide towards violence in Zimbabwe.

Tendai Biti on the continuing uncertainty surrounding the vote

He said the MDC was trying to prevent Zimbabweans being "seduced" into violence, but pointed out that amid a lack of jobs, food and medicines they were getting increasingly frustrated.

In addition to the claims of post-election violence, the opposition also says dozens of its supporters have been arrested by the security forces.

"If democracy fails in Zimbabwe, what options are you leaving to the people of Zimbabwe?" he asked.

Mr Biti called the recount "mendacious and illegal", and said there was evidence of tampering with the ballot boxes.

He said his party would not participate in a run-off - though the party has previously said it would participate if certain conditions were met.

Evidence of violence

The government has not commented on these latest accusations, but has so far denounced all of the opposition's claims as lies.

HAVE YOUR SAY
I predict that the situation will end up like Kenya. Mugabe will be encouraged by the African Union to form a national unity government
Frank Hartry, South Africa

The BBC's Will Ross in South Africa - the BBC is barred from Zimbabwe - says it is difficult to verify the numbers of people the MDC claims have been killed, wounded or displaced in recent political violence.

But he says there is evidence that there has been violence, particularly in rural areas - something the MDC accuses the government of orchestrating in a bid to intimidate opposition voters in the lead-up to a possible run-off.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch on Saturday accused Zanu-PF of "using a network of informal detention centres to beat, torture, and intimidate opposition activists and ordinary Zimbabweans".

South African dock workers last week refused to unload a Chinese ship carrying arms destined for Zimbabwe, and a South African court barred its cargo from being transported overland to the border.

UN effort

On Sunday the 53-member African Union urged Zimbabwe to release the election results "without any further delay", and called for restraint from all parties.

Earlier, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he would discuss "how to get developments there back to normal" with a number of African leaders on the sidelines of a UN summit in Ghana.

Kofi Annan, his predecessor, has also urged African leaders to do more to address the crisis.

The alarm bells are getting louder but so far they show little sign of making any difference in Zimbabwe, our correspondent says.

Few African heads of state are attending the UN summit in Ghana and it will not be a priority at a conference of the 14-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC), currently taking place in Mauritius.


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