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Mugabe, Tsvangirai to Attend Emergency Summit on Zimbabwe Election Crisis

In Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai are reportedly to attend an emergency summit of southern African leaders to discuss Zimbabwe's elections. VOA's Scott Bobb reports from our Southern Africa Bureau in Johannesburg that the meeting is being held amid growing concern over the delayed results.

Zimbabwean government officials have announced President Mugabe's attendance at Saturday's summit in Lusaka, saying it is a normal meeting aimed at briefing southern African leaders on the vote.

But Movement for Democratic Change secretary-general Tendai Biti said Morgan Tsvangirai would tell the leaders his opposition party won the elections and they needed to press Mr. Mugabe to accept defeat.

"We hope that at SADC on Saturday the message that will be sent to President Mugabe, loudly, very clearly, is that please Mr. President, you've done your bit," Biti said. "You're a founding father, step down and let those who were given a mandate to govern carry on with the business, the important business, of rehabilitating that beautiful country called Zimbabwe."

Official results released a week ago show the Movement for Democratic Change won a majority of seats in the national assembly and half of the seats in the senate.

But Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said ZANU-PF is seeking a recount in many constituencies because he said numerous discrepancies had been found.

"Some of these discrepancies could have been due to human error and maybe some of them due to criminal intentions on the part of those who may not have put the right figures," he noted. "We also noticed that we think the prejudice in some instances was not just against our president, but also against the other contesting candidates."

Twelve days after the vote the results of the presidential election have yet to be announced. The opposition says its tallies of official results posted at polling places show Mr. Tsvangirai won the election with more than 50 percent of the vote.

Biti said the opposition believes the recount and the delayed results are part of efforts by the ruling party to overturn its defeat.

"We have no doubt beyond a reasonable doubt that ZANU-PF have done a forensic audit of this election which they do not have powers [to do]," he said. "And in complicity with the Zimbabwe Election Commission they have opened those ballot boxes. They have moved those ballot boxes, and they know what is inside those ballot boxes."

The head of the Southern African Economic Community, Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa, announced the SADC summit Wednesday, amid rising concern in the region over a looming crisis in Zimbabwe.

Mr. Mwanawasa was said to have rejected an initial proposal to send a high-level delegation to Zimbabwe.

"Because of the deepening problem in the country, I felt that this matter should be dealt with at the presidential level," he said.

The Zimbabwe issue has begun to sow divisions within the region. South Africa's ruling African National Congress said the presidential election results should be released as soon as possible. The statement followed comments by ANC President Jacob Zuma that the delay did not look good for the future.

South African President Thabo Mbeki has urged patience, and South African diplomats have rejected calls for international intervention in Zimbabwe or for Mr. Mugabe's departure.