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Wait for Zimbabwe Election Results Continues

The politburo of Zimbabwe's ZANU-PF party has endorsed President Robert Mugabe as its candidate for president if a run-off election is necessary. Peta Thornycroft reports for VOA from Harare that the endorsement came as the country waited for a sixth day for official results from Saturday's presidential vote.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai Friday told foreign diplomats that verification of the counting of the presidential vote from Saturday's election has not yet begun. He said officials of his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party would be carefully checking each of more than two million votes cast. He said this would take at least three days indicating he did not expect results from the presidential poll before Tuesday.

Tsvangirai also told diplomats he still believes he won the presidential election with more than 50 percent of the vote, but he said Mr. Mugabe would be more likely to seek a run-off election than concede defeat.

Returns from the senate elections were still trickling showing ZANU-PF and the MDC with an equal number of seats.

ZANU-PF narrowly lost its majority in the national assembly when results of the parliamentary elections were announced Wednesday by the Zimbabwe Election Commission.

Harare seems quiet, subdued even, although groups of ZANU-PF militants marched quietly through the city center Friday.

Independent analysts and opposition parties say there does not appear to be any concerted political crackdown underway, but Tsvangirai Friday said he regretted the delay in announcing the election results because it was causing tension and hindering the process of political reconciliation and economic recovery.

South African President Thabo Mbeki, who mediated talks between the governing and opposition parties, urged patience.

"We would hope that again everybody would accept those results in a way that those results have been accepted up until now," he said. "And then the legal constitutional processes of Zimbabwe would then proceed. If indeed Morgan Tsvangirai has been elected in terms of the electoral law and so on, that's fine. If there is to be a run-off, that's fine. So it's a matter that we must await."

Two foreign journalists, one from the New York Times and the other from the London's Sunday Telegraph were arrested late Thursday on charges of working in Zimbabwe without accreditation.

In addition, three pro-democracy activists from the United States were reportedly being detained. A western diplomat said Friday that the whereabouts of one of them, a staff member of the National Democratic Institute arrested at Harare airport, are not known.

The signs of Zimbabwe's economic collapse are everywhere. Stocks of groceries are low and the staple, corn meal, is not available in the shops.

The central bank said Friday it had released a new 50 million Zimbabwe dollar note, worth about $1 US on the parallel market. And the central statistical office announced that inflation had reached 165,000 percent.

Several diplomats said Friday they wondered whether Zimbabwe would be able to fund and organize the expected presidential run-off election.