Mugabe calls for peaceful elections

HARARE - Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe on Sunday made his final call for peaceful voting as he vowed that this week's election will be free and fair.

"Vote, vote, vote in peace, peace peace, peace. We want peace," Mugabe told around 40,000 supporters at his final rally at the National Sports Stadium in the capital Harare.

Mugabe said there were no major incidents of violence during the last days of campaigning, unlike the last vote in 2008.

"It's going to be free and fair. We are not forcing anyone to vote this way or that way," he told reporters.

Zimbabweans vote for a new president and parliament on Wednesday, four years after Mugabe -- who has ruled for 33 years -- and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai were forced to share power.

The 89-year-old Mugabe warned against foreign influence in resolving the political conflict in Zimbabwe, citing the fallout after uprisings in Egypt and Libya.

"See what is happening in Egypt. They were fooled and advised to remove their leaders," he told supporters in the local Shona language.

Egyptians are "fighting each other" and the West "are observers now as if they don't know the mischief they caused," he added.

Relations between Mugabe and Western nations remain tense following international sanctions dating back to 2002.

Tsvangirai won most votes in the first round of the violence-marred vote in 2008, but pulled out of a run-off after 200 opposition members were killed.

He and his rival Mugabe formed a unity government a year later.

Mugabe spoke standing for nearly two hours despite his advanced age, after criss-crossing the country and addressing 10 rallies in three weeks.

The July 31 vote will be his seventh electoral race and he answered a categoric "yes" when asked if he would stand again for elections in 2018.

Meanwhile a popular Christian Apostolic sect also Sunday declared him lifetime president of Zimbabwe.

- Sapa

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