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Zimbabwe's Ruling Party Endorses Mugabe For Possible Runoff

Zimbabwe's ruling party says it will endorse President Robert Mugabe if the country's presidential election goes to a run-off.

A ZANU-PF official Didymus Mutasa made the announcement Friday after party leaders discussed what has become the most serious challenge to Mr. Mugabe's 28-year rule.

Zimbabwe's electoral commission has yet to release any results from the presidential election held last Saturday.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said Friday that he believes he won the election with more than 50 percent of the vote.

But the state-run Herald newspaper and an independent monitoring group, the Zimbabwean Elections Support Network, have said that Mr. Tsvangirai fell short of the majority needed to avoid a run-off.

Friday, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change asked Zimbabwe's High Court to order a release of the results.

Zimbabwean law requires the run-off to be held within 21 days of the first round. But diplomats and MDC officials are saying Mr. Mugabe plans to extend that time to 90 days so he and his party can regroup.

Results from parliamentary elections also held Saturday showed the opposition seizing control of parliament from ZANU-PF. The ruling party announced that it would contest some of the results.

Also Friday, several hundred veterans from Zimbabwe's war of independence marched through Harare. The veterans - who Mr. Mugabe has used to intimidate opponents in the past - denounced the elections as a way for Britain to retake control of the country.

Mr. Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since it gained independence from Britain in 1980. Supporters hail him as a hero of the independence movement, but critics say his policies have ruined Zimbabwe's economy.

The nation suffers from chronic food shortages, and has an annual inflation rate of more than 100,000 percent.

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