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Third Day of Balloting Held in Zimbabwe Amid Confusion - 2002-03-11

Some areas of Zimbabwe are holding an unscheduled third day of voting in a bitterly-contested presidential election, but there are reports that many voters have still had difficulty casting ballots.

Correspondents say there is confusion in Harare and surrounding areas where the country's High Court ordered polling stations to re-open. Many polling stations resumed operations only after 11 a.m. local time. Observers say that delay prevented many voters from casting their ballots.

The main opposition candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, has called on his supporters to remain calm and not to succumb to what he described as government provocation. Mr. Tsvangirai is accusing President Robert Mugabe of attempting to steal the election to maintain his 22year grip on power.

Meanwhile, officials at the U.S. embassy in Harare said police had detained four American diplomats in Chinoyi town, about 100 kilometers southwest of Harare. Two of the diplomats were accredited as election observers.

In another development today, Mr. Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change says police arrested two of its senior officials. MDC Secretary-General Welshman Ncube was arrested in the southwestern town of Plumtree, and his deputy, Gift Chimanikire, was detained in Harare.

Zimbabwe's presidential election was to have ended late Sunday, but thousands of people were still waiting to vote at that time. The High Court ordered the third day of voting at the request of Mr. Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change.

Zimbabwe's election campaign and voting have been plagued by violence and charges that pro-Mugabe militants have intimidated the opposition and are trying to rig the vote. The government denies those charges.