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South African President Willing to Stay On as Head of ANC

South African President Thabo Mbeki says he is willing to stay on as head of the ruling African National Congress, if requested to do so after his presidential term ends in 2009.

Mr. Mbeki made the comments to local media Saturday at the conclusion of a four-day ANC policy conference in Midrand, outside of Johannesburg.

Delegates at the conference rejected proposals that would have barred Mr. Mbeki from leading the party again. However, a majority of the 1,500 delegates also said they prefer that the head of the party be the head of state.

Mr. Mbeki is serving his second term as president. He is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term.

His biggest opposition for leadership of the party is ANC deputy chair Jacob Zuma, the former vice president who lost his post in a corruption scandal in 2005. Zuma was later cleared of wrongdoing.

At the close of the four-day conference, Mr. Mbeki praised the delegates for defying some analysts' predictions that it would be marked by deep divisions and bitter conflicts.

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