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Zimbabwe President Mugabe Holds Lavish Birthday Celebration


Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has marked his 83rd birthday with a celebration in a sports stadium attended by thousands of his supporters.

Though his actual birthday was Wednesday, Mr. Mugabe put on the party Saturday in the central city of Gweru. Crowds of supporters from his ruling ZANU-PF party sang, danced, and read poetry in the president's honor.

The lavish celebration comes one day after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced it was maintaining its suspension of financial and technical assistance to Zimbabwe. The IMF says the country has failed to clear its debts and has done nothing to address its deteriorating economy.

Political tension has been running high in Zimbabwe amid an economic crisis marked by 80 percent unemployment and an inflation rate of nearly 1,600 percent.

Doctors and teachers have been striking for higher pay, while other unions have threatened to join the strike.

The ruling ZANU-PF party is considering a plan that would postpone presidential elections scheduled for next year until 2010

The president has denied the plan is designed to extend his rule. He said the extension would benefit the country by holding presidential and parliamentary elections at the same time.

Mr. Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since the nation won independence from Britain in 1980.

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