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Zimbabwe court rejects petition for vote results

/ Source: The Associated Press

A Zimbabwean opposition lawyer said Monday that a top court has rejected a demand for the immediate release of results from last month's presidential election.

Lawyer Andrew Makoni said the High Court had dismissed the opposition petition for the results.

The electoral commission has said it was still verifying the votes.

Independent tallies indicate longtime President Robert Mugabe lost the election, but garnered enough votes to force a runoff.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai claims to have won the election outright.

South Africa fails to criticize MugabeOn Sunday, regional leaders discussed Zimbabwe's electoral crisis in a marathon summit that ended before dawn with a declaration that failed to criticize the absent  Mugabe.

Tsvangirai had wanted the leaders to press Mugabe to resign after 28 years as Zimbabwe's leader.

Western powers, the United Nations and regional church, democracy and human rights groups had called for the meeting to demand an immediate announcement of the long-delayed election results.

Instead, the declaration issued at the end of the 12-hour summit called for the expeditious verification of results in the presence of the candidates or their agents "within the rule of law." The declaration also urged "all parties to accept the results when they are announced."

The summit promised to send observers if there were a second round of elections. The team it sent in March was led by a junior minister from Angola, a country that has not held elections since 1992.

Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa had called the emergency summit with 48 hours' notice. Afterward, his foreign affairs minister told reporters there was no crisis in Zimbabwe, echoing statements made by South African President Thabo Mbeki.

'No crisis,' South Africa leader says
Mbeki said Saturday there was "no crisis" after he had to fly to Zimbabwe before Saturday's summit to engage Mugabe, who reportedly was not taking calls from African leaders last week.

Mbeki's policy of "quiet diplomacy" on Zimbabwe has been likened to appeasement that allows Mugabe to continue his autocratic rule unimpeded. The Southern African Development Community that held the summit has been accused of pandering to Mugabe with disregard for its own constitution to promote democracy.

Presidents at the conference rushed away when the meeting ended, refusing to answer questions. They left Zambia's Foreign Affairs Minister Kabinga Pande to declare, "We listened to both parties, the opposition and the government, and both have said there is no crisis."

Tendai Biti, the secretary-general of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Party, denied that was what it said. Tsvangirai had hurriedly left the summit four hours before it closed and did not return as promised.

Biti repeated charges that Mugabe has orchestrated a campaign of violence to intimidate opponents who voted against him, with allegations of beatings and burnings of huts corroborated by local and international human rights groups.

"We have a militarized, polarized situation," Biti said in a news conference. "There is violence, intolerance, hate speech and vitriolic propaganda."

Pande said the rival parties had agreed at the summit that the elections were free and fair.

Biti said, "We maintain that Zimbabwe is not capable of producing a free and fair election."

Still, he said, the leaders' response was "a major improvement" and that the economic bloc "has acquitted itself relatively well."

"The very fact that they had the guts to actually hold this extraordinary summit acknowledges that things are not right in Zimbabwe," Biti added.

Inviting Tsvangirai to the meeting was an unprecedented move that probably accounted for Mugabe's absence.