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The Herald newspaper quoted Utloile Silaigwana, a deputy chief elections officer, as saying there were "signs that the counting might take longer than the three days we had projected".

He said the delay was mainly due to party agents "raising issues which they would want attended to and clarified".

Delays and problems

Kohler-Barnard said the process was marred by delays and administrative problems.

"The repeated miscommunication of venue addresses meant that party agents and electoral observers were frequently posted to the incorrect venue, thus undermining the observation process and contributing to further delays in the recount," she said.

Results declared before the recount was announced showed that Zanu-PF had lost control of parliament for the first time since independence in 1980.

However, it would need to claim just nine more seats during the process to regain its majority.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has denounced the recount as illegal and says it will refuse to recognise the results.

Britain, Zimbabwe's former colonial ruler, has dismissed the recount as an attempt to steal the election.

"No one can have any faith in this recount," David Miliband, the foreign minister, said, questioning the security of the ballot boxes held by the authorities since March 29.

Zanu-PF denial

Meanwhile, Zanu-PF dismissed reports that its supporters were arming themselves in the aftermath of the March 29 election.

Dozens of opposition activists were arrested
before last week's general strike [AFP]
Bright Matonga, the deputy information minister, said that claims by Tendai Biti, the MDC secretary general, that Mugabe had unleashed a war against the people should be treated with contempt.

"There is nothing of the sort. These are imaginary vigilantes. They are so desperate," he told South African radio.

Matonga also ridiculed reports which claimed Mugabe supporters were attacking MDC supporters.

"Where is that international media getting those reports from? They are obviously lies that are being peddled by the MDC to get attention to force President Mugabe out of power through the means of force," he said.

Opposition arrests 

Biti said on Sunday that at least 10 people had died and hundreds of activists arrested since the poll.

Dozens of opposition activists detained before a general strike called last week were set to appear in court on Monday.

Lawyers say the activists are to be formally charged with offences ranging from public violence to obstructing traffic.

Innocent Gonese, MDC secretary for legal affairs, said his party's supporters were being held while none of the ruling party militias had been arrested for the alleged murders and assaults of opposition sympathisers.

"This is obviously a manifestation of selective application of the law by the regime. It's not something new," he said.