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Protests force Zambia chief U-turn

Zambia's acting president has rescinded his decision to dismiss the ruling party's chief in a bid to defuse a political conflict that triggered riots in the capital.

The reversal was announced by acting president Guy Scott and Edgar Lungu, who was restored as secretary general of the ruling Patriotic Front party.

Police and demonstrators had clashed in Lusaka during protests against Mr Scott, a white Zambian who fired Mr Lungu after the death last week of president Michael Sata. The 77-year-old died in a London hospital after a long illness.

The riots took hold in several places in Lusaka, including the University of Zambia and a government building designated as a place for Mr Sata's mourners to gather, according to witnesses.

Protesters had descended on the building, Belvedere Lodge, with stones, machetes and other weapons, and police fired tear gas into the venue to clear them from the area.

The protesters had condemned the move by Mr Scott - who is of Scottish descent - to dismiss Mr Lungu.

Protester Mary Tembo said Mr Scott was causing confusion. She urged him to "go to Scotland", saying Zambians wanted to mourn their president in peace.

Mr Lungu had said his dismissal was illegal and accused Mr Scott of "insulting our culture".

Under the constitution, Zambia must hold a presidential election within 90 days of a president's death. Former vice president Mr Scott has said he is not interested in running for president and is in any case barred from the office because his parents were not Zambian by birth or descent.

Mr Lungu, who was acting president just before Mr Sata died on October 28 in a London hospital, has been considered a possible presidential candidate from the ruling Patriotic Front party. Some commentators speculated that his dismissal reflected political manoeuvring among factions ahead of the election.

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