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Page last updated at 21:04 GMT, Thursday, 26 June 2008 22:04 UK

Mugabe rejects poll delay calls

Robert Mugabe greets jubilant supporters at his final campaign rally on Thursday
Jubilant supporters greeted Mr Mugabe at his final rally on Thursday

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has brushed aside last minute calls for Friday's disputed presidential run-off election to be postponed or called off.

Mr Mugabe said his party Zanu-PF would continue to rule the country as they believed it should be ruled.

But in his final campaign speech, he offered talks with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Amid continuing violence on its supporters, the MDC has withdrawn from the contest.

However, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai said his supporters should vote rather than face violent reprisals.

Reports suggested Zanu-PF membership cards were selling for huge sums of money on the black market.

Robert Mugabe says he remains "open to discussion"

Those buying the cards believe they will offer some protection from attack by militias, a BBC correspondent reports.

Mr Mugabe came second to Mr Tsvangirai in the first round of the presidential vote in March.

Since then, the MDC says some 86 of its supporters have been killed and 200,000 forced from their homes by militias loyal to Zanu-PF.

The government blames the MDC for the violence, and on Thursday the police accused Britain and the US of backing MDC plans to disrupt Friday's voting.

"There is information that the United Kingdom and the United States of America are planning to use the MDC and civic organisations and others to stage violent demonstrations in order to disrupt the presidential run-off elections due tomorrow," said Senior Assistant Commissioner Faustino Mazango.

Mr Mugabe went further, saying he had no quarrel with the British people, but with those in "number 10, Downing Street" - the official address of UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

"The demons in number 10, Downing Street, must be exorcised by someone," he said.

No sanctions threat

Regional leaders - including from Nigeria, the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) and the African Union - have called on Mr Mugabe to postpone the vote and negotiate with the opposition.

While he said he intended to attend an African Union summit in Egypt next week, Mr Mugabe said the AU had "no right in dictating to us what we should do with our constitution, and how we should govern this country".

He told supporters during Thursday's Harare rally that he was not interested in the opinions of the rest of the world.

Tendai Biti speaks to the press after leaving prison , 26 June 2008
Tendai Biti described prison as a "depressing place"

"I would rather the world left us in peace. Sanctions, well, let them continue with their sanctions, but we will find our way of existing," said Mr Mugabe.

But he suggested negotiations with the MDC were possible.

"Should we emerge victorious, which I believe we will, sure we won't be arrogant, we will be magnanimous and say 'let's sit down and talk,'" he said.

Mr Tsvangirai has said negotiations would not be possible if Mr Mugabe went ahead with the run-off.

He said Zimbabwe's army was preparing to force people to vote in massive numbers for Mr Mugabe.

Speaking to the BBC's World Update programme, Mr Tsvangirai said his supporters should vote if necessary to avoid violent reprisals.

"Do not take any risk. It's not worth it. This government is illegitimate. It will remain so."

One MDC supporter in Harare told the BBC's Africa Have Your Say programme that he definitely would not vote because the MDC had not been given a fair chance to campaign.

Trillion-dollar bail

Also on Thursday, MDC secretary general Tendai Biti was released on bail two weeks after he was arrested on treason charges, which his party says are politically driven.

"It wasn't easy, but we have to continue fighting," Mr Biti told the BBC after his release.

He has been charged with treason, which carries the death penalty, and also with publishing false statements and insulting the president.

His bail was set at one trillion Zimbabwe dollars, the equivalent of about $200 (100).

African voices on Zimbabwe's poll crisis

A BBC contributor in the southern town of Masvingo said army chief-of-staff Major General Engelbert Rugeje told a rally that his soldiers would force members of the public to go and vote for Mr Mugabe.

"We are soldiers who do not ask for things, but force things," Maj Gen Rugeje said. "On Friday, we are going to make sure that you go and vote not for a person of your choice, but Mugabe."

Villagers have also described how they have been ordered to feign arm injuries so they can be assisted in polling booths by Zanu-PF supporters, who will ensure they vote for Mr Mugabe.



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