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Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa Dies

Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa has died in a French hospital, where he was being treated after suffering a stroke in late June.

Vice President Rupiah Banda says Mr. Mwanawasa died at about 10:30 in the morning Paris time Tuesday.

Banda said a seven-day mourning period for Mr. Mwanawasa would begin immediately.

The 59-year-old Zambian president suffered a stroke in Egypt on June 29, on the eve of an African Union summit. He was flown to a Paris military hospital in early July.

Mr. Mwanawasa had served as the southern African country's president since January 2002. He suffered a mild stroke in 2006 before being re-elected that year.

Mr. Mwanawasa won praise from the West for working to fight corruption and seeking to modernize Zambia's economy. He was also a rare African critic of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.

He once described Zimbabwe's economy as a "sinking Titantic," and openly criticized the runoff election that returned Mr. Mugabe to power in June.

Under his rule, Zambia enjoyed strong economic growth and relatively low inflation. However, most of the country's 11.5 million people have remained stuck in poverty.

Following Mr. Mwanawasa's death Tuesday, French President Nicholas Sarkozy issued a statement extending condolences to the Zambian people.

Zambia's constitution calls for elections within 90 days to choose a new president.

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