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THE United States expressed concern that Zimbabwe's election results were being delayed, and urged the country's electoral commission on Monday to put aside any partisan sympathies and ensure all votes are counted "honestly" from last weekend's presidential poll.

There were growing concerns in the African country that long delays in issuing election results masked attempts by President Robert Mugabe to cling to power by rigging the outcome.

"We have seen some results, but are concerned that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is delaying the annoulcement of election results," said White House spokesman Tony Fratto.

"We're urging the election commission to count every vote honestly and to release results quickly that reflect the will and preferences of the people of Zimbabwe," he said.

State Department spokesman Tom Casey pointed to a long list of irregularities in the run-up to Saturday's poll, including an over-printing of ballot papers, which he predicted could make vote counting problematic.

"It is no secret that the Zimbabwean electoral commission has a partisan cast to it and we would certainly hope that regardless of the partisan sympathies of any members of that commission, that they would again follow the letter and spirit of the law," he said.

The latest counts showed Zimbabwe's opposition to be even with President Robert Mugabe.

Asked to comment on the elections over the weekend, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters: "The Mugabe regime is a disgrace to the people of Zimbabwe and a disgrace to southern Africa and to the continent of Africa as a whole."

Casey and other U.S. officials declined to comment specifically on the election results released so far and said they were waiting for a clearer picture to emerge.

"We want to wait and see what results the Zimbabwean electoral commission does produce," said Casey.

Asked whether he was worried about the possibility of post-electoral violence in Zimbabwe, as happened after the disputed Kenyan election last December, Casey said violence did not serve anyone's interests.

"At the same time, we understand that the Zimbabwean people have suffered greatly under President Mugabe's leadership. We have seen many instances where the will of the people has been thwarted," said Casey.

"We are concerned about the situation and we certainly hope the election results as reported by the Zimbabwean electoral commission do in fact match the will of the Zimbabwean people," he added. - Reuters
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