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'Defiant' Mugabe says will be "act of cowardice" for him to step down

December 11, 2011 - Harare

Zimbabwe's 87-year-old President Robert Mugabe has said that he would not retire ahead of proposed elections next year and would stay on to lead the country against a 'Western campaign for regime change'.

While addressing 6,000 delegates at his party's annual convention, Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, said it would be "an act of cowardice" for him to step down.

"Luckily, God has given me this longer life than others to be with you and I will not let you down," Fox News quoted Mugabe, as saying.

"I can't leave you in such a mess. It would be completely wrong and a loss of confidence in myself. When the party is moving ahead, then I'll say it is in your own hands," he added.

Mugabe recently called for elections in 2012 to end a power-sharing government.

He said that the 30-month coalition with the former opposition needed to be "put to death" at elections.

"Let us now start preparing for elections and as we do that we are digging the grave of this monster, Mugabe said.

Mugabe said the coalition had failed and opponents blamed the failure on his intransigence and pointed to his age as an obstacle.

But, he insisted, some coalition members from Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's party took "a free ride" on the power sharing deal brokered by regional leaders after disputed and violence-plagued elections in 2008 to benefit from government perks.

Meanwhile, deep divisions have emerged in Mugabe's party over his ability to remain in control, stop infighting and contest a rigorous election campaign.

Mugabe has visited Singapore at least eight times this year for medical treatment. According to cables quoted on the WikiLeaks Internet site, some of his close associates disclosed that he is suffering from Prostate cancer.


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