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Zimbabwe church urges poll peace

Zimbabwean church leaders have urged worshippers to pray for peace after disputed elections gave long-time President Robert Mugabe a landslide victory in the presidential and parliamentary vote.

The Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe asked its followers to wait for "dialogue to resolve outstanding issues with self-control and tolerance".

In pastoral messages given by priests, Roman Catholic churches, whose monitors criticised Wednesday's voting for widespread irregularities, called on Catholics not to be "consumed by bitterness that leads to violence".

"Peace in your heart brings calm. Trust and have faith," said Father Charles Kanongwa, a church leader.

Preparing for possible disturbances, however, Zimbabwean police mounted extra roadblocks in the capital, some manned unusually by officers with automatic rifles. Troops were camped downtown where water canon trucks were also stationed.

Mr Mugabe took 62% of the presidential vote compared to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai's 34%, according to official results.

Mr Tsvangirai rejected the vote as "a monumental fraud" and says he will challenge the results that also gave Mugabe's party a two-thirds majority in the 210 seat parliament, enabling it to alter aspects of the country's new constitution it opposed when the charter was being rewritten.

In the last elections in 2008, the opposition captured 111 seats to Mr Mugabe's 99. Mr Tsvangirai beat Mr Mugabe in the first round of that presidential vote but boycotted a run-off to protest an onslaught of violence against his supporters.

Regional southern African monitors and observers from the continentwide African Union have demanded investigations into allegations of inflated voting by Mr Mugabe's ZANU-PF party and the absence of an estimated 700,000 names of eligible voters from voters' lists.

While voting was largely peaceful on polling day, a complete audit of the lists and votes cast could take weeks, even if the official state election commission dominated by Mugabe supporters makes them available, independent observers say.

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