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Nigeria Expresses 'Strong Displeasure' at Zimbabwe Runoff


Nigeria has criticized Zimbabwe's presidential runoff poll, saying talks over the country's future should proceed as if the election never happened.

Speaking in Abuja Friday, Nigerian Foreign Minister Ojo Maduekwe stopped short of rejecting the government of President Robert Mugabe.

But he said Nigeria feels "strong displeasure" at the process leading up to last Friday's election and its outcome. He said Nigeria does not consider the runoff as a basis for moving forward, and said talks should go ahead "without any reference" to it.

To this point, African countries have largely avoided strong criticism of the runoff, which many observers and Western countries dismissed as a sham.

Mr. Mugabe received only a mild rebuke at this week's African Union summit in Egypt, where leaders called on him to form a national unity government with the opposition.

Friday, Mr. Mugabe said opponents must accept him as president if they want talks on ending Zimbabwe's political crisis.

Mr. Mugabe was declared the winner of the June 27 runoff after a campaign that observers said was deeply marred by ruling party violence against Mr. Mugabe's opponents.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew from the runoff because of the violence. He told VOA Studio 7 Zimbabwe this week that he will not enter any talks with the government unless the violence stops.

The MDC Friday said that 103 of its supporters have been killed in election-related violence, and that some 5,000 others are missing. There was no immediate comment from the ruling ZANU-PF party or the government, who have repeatedly denied claims of a crackdown on the opposition.

Friday, the European Union called for a new election in Zimbabwe as soon as possible, while Botswana repeated a call for the Southern African Development Community not to recognize Mr. Mugabe's re-election.

Mr. Mugabe is still widely respected in Africa as a liberation hero for his role in Zimbabwe's war for independence from Britain. He has ruled Zimbabwe since it became independent in 1980.

Critics blame him for Zimbabwe's economic crisis, marked by an inflation rate that stands officially at 160,000 percent but is believed to be much higher. Mr. Mugabe blames Western sanctions directed at members of his government.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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