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Zimbabwe Bans Political Rallies; Opposition Calls for General Strike


Tension is rising in Zimbabwe, where authorities have banned all political rallies and the opposition is calling for a general strike to protest the lack of results from the presidential election.

Police announced the ban on rallies Friday saying it would take effect immediately. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change was planning a rally for Saturday.

The MDC, meanwhile, has called for a general strike to begin on Tuesday, to demand that the electoral commission release the presidential election results.

The MDC says its leader and candidate Morgan Tsvangirai defeated President Robert Mugabe in the election nearly two weeks ago. The party says it won the election "hands down" and will not take part in a run-off.

Both Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Tsvangirai were expected to attend an emergency meeting of southern African leaders to discuss Zimbabwe's political crisis. But state media said Friday that Mr. Mugabe will send three government ministers in his place.

Mr. Tsvangirai has accused Zimbabwe's military leaders of deploying troops across the country to intimidate the population should a run-off take place. The opposition today also said police arrested Mr. Tsvangirai's lawyer, Innocent Chagonda, when he demanded the release of a helicopter hired for the presidential campaign.

An opposition spokesman says Mr. Tsvangirai met with South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki on Thursday. Neither the MDC nor Mr. Mbeki's office released details on the talks.

Mr. Mbeki will be among the leaders at the Southern Africa Development Community conference on Saturday. A Zimbabwean political analyst Brian Raftopoulos of Zimbabwe's independent Solidarity Peace Trust notes that the SADC put little pressure on Mr. Mugabe when he was accused of political repression in the past.

Zimbabwean High Court judge Tendai Uchena has said he will rule Monday on an opposition appeal demanding the release of the election results.

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