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Southern African Leaders Discuss Zimbabwe's Election Crisis

Southern African leaders are holding an emergency summit to discuss Zimbabwe's deepening political crisis.

But one key figure in Zimbabwe's political impasse, President Robert Mugabe, is not attending the Southern African Development Community summit in Lusaka, Zambia. He has sent a team of ministers in his place.

Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who claims to have won the March 29th presidential election, is in attendance.

In opening remarks at the summit Saturday, Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa said the meeting should focus on finding a resolution that reflects the will of Zimbabwe's people.

Earlier in the day, South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki met with Mr. Mugabe in Harare. Afterwards, Mr. Mbeki said he does not believe Zimbabwe's presidential election deadlock constitutes a crisis.

Zimbabwe's electoral commission has not yet released official results from the presidential vote held two weeks ago.

The South African president again urged people to exercise patience and wait for results to be announced.

But Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown appeared on British television today, warning that the international community is running out of patience with the continued delays.

Mr. Mugabe dismissed the criticism, telling reporters he does not think highly of Mr. Brown.

Zimbabwe's main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, says its leader, Mr. Tsvangirai, defeated Mr. Mugabe and will not take part in a run-off election.

Independent tallies suggest Mr. Tsvangirai received more votes than the incumbent but a runoff will be needed because no one won more than 50 percent of the vote.

Speaking to reporters in Lusaka, the MDC Secretary General Tendai Biti says Zimbabwe's military has essentially taken over the country. He is urging the SADC to speak out against Mr. Mugabe's "dictatorship."

A U.S. State Department spokesman,Sean McCormack said on Friday SADC leaders should address what he called credible reports of government violence and intimidation against opposition supporters.

A Zimbabwean High Court judge Tendai Uchena has said he will rule Monday on an opposition appeal demanding the release of the poll's results.

The MDC is calling for a rally Sunday to protest the lack of election results. It is also calling for a general strike to begin on Tuesday.

Police announced a ban on rallies on Friday, saying it would take effect immediately.