Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has said he will not accept foreign interference during elections later this year.
In an address to mark 33 years of Zimbabwean independence on Thursday, Mugabe welcomed recent efforts by Western nations to reopen dialogue with Zimbabwe after years of isolation to protest political violence, rights abuses and alleged vote rigging.
However, he said Western leaders should let the nation's people "determine our own destiny" and defended the country's independence without interference.
"Interference in our affairs will never be accepted," he said, while calling on Zimbabweans to conduct themselves honourably during the elections, which could be held anywhere from late June to September.
Mugabe urged his people to vote peacefully and said the nation had an obligation to "uphold and promote peace before, during, and after" upcoming polls that will mark the end of the country's coalition government with former political rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
"The country is now due to hold harmonised elections, and I wish to urge the nation to uphold and promote peace," Mugabe said.
"Go and vote your own way. No one should force you to vote for me."
Mugabe's party, ZANU-PF [Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front] was largely blamed for most of the violence seen during the 2008 elections.
He urged his supporters to replicate the calm of last month's referendum in which Zimbabwe endorsed a new constitution.
Mugabe told party leaders to avoid exhorting their followers to attack opponents and said he had ordered the police to get tough on perpetrators of political violence.
The president expressed the hope that talks to restore ties with the West would lead to the lifting of sanctions imposed on him and his inner circle for alleged rights abuses and electoral fraud.
"Zimbabwe welcomes the re-engagement efforts that were recently initiated by Britain and the European Union," he said.
"We hope that these efforts will lead to the unconditional lifting of illegal sanctions on Zimbabwe."
Meanwhile Tsvangirai, in his own Independence Day message, said the end of colonial rule did not bring freedom for all.
"We still have a huge deficit when it comes to respect for human dignity and human rights because we take for granted the people's basic freedoms of assembly, speech and association," Tsvangirai said.