GENIAL OBSERVERS IN ZIM

HARARE - The African Union's Pan-African Parliament (PAP) observer group says it has "no interest" in the outcome of Zimbabwe's coming national elections, but rather that the voting procedures are regular.

HARARE - The African Union's Pan-African Parliament (PAP) observer group says it has "no interest" in the outcome of Zimbabwe's coming national elections, but rather that the voting procedures are regular.

"We have no interest in the baby to be conceived, whether it is going to be a boy or girl, but to ensure that the process leading to that is in place," Marwick Khumalo, head of the group, told the official Herald newspaper.

"We have not come to prescribe to Zimbabwe how they should conduct their elections," Khumalo said about the March 29 vote.

"The purpose of our mission here is to ensure the elections meet the standards of the African Union Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance and the African Union Declaration on Elections, Democracy and Governance in Africa," he told the newspaper.

The Zimbabwe government has been accused of inviting only observers from friendly countries, who will whitewash the results of the poll.

Western observer groups have been banned. The PAP group observed Kenya's disputed elections in December.

Last year Zimbabwe's ruling party reacted with hostility to an attempt by the PAP to send a fact-finding mission to Harare after a brutal police crackdown on the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) at an aborted prayer rally.

Meanwhile, no staff from overseas Zimbabwe embassies have applied to vote by post in Saturday's presidential and parliamentary polls, an official from the state electoral commission was reported as saying.

Only 8000 police have applied for postal ballot papers, Utoile Silaigwana, deputy elections officer from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), said.

Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition MDC, said he wanted to know why, if only 8 000 police officers were voting, 600000 postal ballot papers had been printed.

Tsvangirai told a rally in Harare on Sunday that President Robert Mugabe, 84, would use "every trick in the book" to win Saturday's election and give himself a sixth term in office. -- Sapa-DPA

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