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Zimbabwe to Consider Wide-Ranging Constitutional Changes

Zimbabwe's government has proposed constitutional changes that would allow it to hold national elections early next year, increase the size of its parliament, and set up a human rights commission.

An official notice from the government announced the proposed constitutional amendment Saturday. It is set for debate in parliament next month.

The amendment calls for holding parliamentary and presidential elections at the same time, and expanding the lower house of parliament from 150 to 210 members. It also would set up a human rights commission that critics already are criticizing as a hollow gesture.

Opposition groups also see the amendment as a plan to help President Robert Mugabe hold onto power. Elections are approaching as Zimbabwe reels from the world's highest inflation rate - more than 3,700 percent - and as the country faces shortages of food and fuel.

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