China says a shipment of weapons bound for Zimbabwe will be recalled, after southern African countries refused to offload it.
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu Thursday said the shipping company ordered the recall. She defended the shipment as a normal arms transaction.
The ship was cleared to dock in South Africa last Friday, but workers there refused to unload it for fear that Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe might use the weapons against his political opponents.
Tensions are rising in Zimbabwe over the delay in releasing results from the March 29 presidential vote that the opposition Movement for Democratic Change says it won.
The opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, says Mr. Mugabe used violence and intimidation to obtain votes.
In an opinion article published today in a U.S. newspaper the Washington Post, Mr. Tsvangirai says he is unable to return to Zimbabwe for fear of his life. The MDC candidate was in Mozambique Wednesday.
Meanwhile, South Africa's ruling party leader, Jacob Zuma, has rejected Britain's call for an international arms embargo on Zimbabwe, saying the situation does not yet call for it.
Mr. Zuma is in London for talks with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
On Wednesday, Mr. Brown said he would push for an international arms embargo. He also renewed his accusation that Zimbabwean officials are trying to rig the election result in favor of Mr. Mugabe.
The MDC says its candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, defeated President Mugabe outright with a majority vote in the March 29 election.
The MDC says Mr. Mugabe's government is holding back the presidential results so it can alter them and orchestrate a run-off vote. The electoral commission began a recount in selected districts Saturday over MDC objections.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.