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Zimbabwe PM Announces Re-election Bid

Zimbabwe PM Announces Re-election Bid

Published March 9, 2010

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) -- Zimbabwe's top two politicians are looking ahead to the elections that will end their uneasy governing partnership.

At a rally Sunday in Harare, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said he would run in presidential elections expected next year. He also called for African peacekeepers to protect voters in a country where politics has long been dogged by violence and fraud blamed on President Robert Mugabe's supporters.

Mugabe hinted last week that he would run for re-election. The 86-year-old has led Zimbabwe since 1980.

Mugabe was forced into a power-sharing agreement with longtime opponent Tsvangirai a year ago. The unity government is supposed to prepare for elections in 2011, but it has been beset by disputes among the partners. No election date has been set.

"I am ready to stand for elections," Tsvangirai told about 20,000 members of his Movement for Democratic Change party Sunday.

"We want a peacekeeping force to protect people during the election period," Tsvangirai added, saying he would ask the African Union and a regional group known as SADC to send the peacekeepers. He also said he wanted foreign observers' to help guarantee a free and fair vote.

Roy Bennett, a top Tsvangirai aide, got a standing ovation when he arrived at the rally. Bennett did not address the rally.

Hearings resume Monday in Bennett's weapons and insurgency trial.

Tsvangirai, a longtime opponent of Mugabe, says the charges against Bennett, which carry the death penalty, are baseless and part of efforts by Mugabe loyalists to undermine the coalition. Leaders of Mugabe's party deny the accusations, saying it should be left to the judge to determine the merits of Bennett's case.

Prosecutors were dealt a setback at a hearing in January, when the judge dismissed statements made by a key witness against Bennett, who claims he was tortured.

Written by <P>By CHENGETAI ZVAUYA, Associated Press Writer<BR></P>

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