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Mugabe Threatens New Crackdown on Prices

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe is demanding a general rollback on prices of basic goods and services, days before the country goes to the polls.

In comments carried by state media Tuesday, Mr. Mugabe said he wants businesses to reduce prices to the levels of February 12, when civil servants were given a salary increase.

The president blamed Zimbabwe's 100,000 percent inflation rate on opponents he said are pushing for "regime change." He said companies that refuse to cut prices could be taken over by the government.

Mr. Mugabe is running for a sixth term as Zimbabwe's president in Saturday's elections. He is being challenged by a former ruling party member, Simba Makoni, and longtime opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

On Monday, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change accused the government of planning to rig the elections.

The MDC said the electoral commission has ordered nine million ballot papers even though there are only six million registered voters. There has been no comment from the government.

Several Western countries and the rights group Human Rights Watch have expressed doubt that Zimbabwe's elections will be free and fair. Zimbabwe's government has banned Western observers from monitoring the vote.

President Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since the country won independence from Britain in 1980.

Much of the campaign has revolved around his handling of the economy. Zimbabwe has chronic shortages of food and fuel, and the country's inflation rate remains the highest in the world despite official price controls imposed last June.