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By Staff Reporter

POLICE in Zimbabwe arrested on Tuesday scores of women participating in demonstrations in two of the country's main cities.

The protesters were reported to be singing songs directed at the country's controversial President Robert Mugabe. Lyrics included: "your term is up... you have stayed too long."

Women of Zimbabwe Arise (Woza), a rights group which frequently holds protests, has held protests on or just before Valentine's Day for the past three years.

The group claimed up to 274 protesters were arrested in Bulawayo and 10 more in the capital Harare.

It was not immediately possible to obtain independent confirmation of the figures.

In Bulawayo, riot police beat up demonstrators, Woza claimed. In Harare, police allegedly fired teargas at the protesters as they neared the parliament building, the group said.

Woza said several people were arrested as they tried to march towards the headquarters of Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party.

"Were still trying to verify that figure (of Harare arrests)," Woza co-ordinator, Jenni Williams, said in a telephone interview.

In recent years, the group has traditionally held protests marches on Valentines Day - February 14 - at which many have been arrested.

Organisers of the latest protest, prepared to take to the streets a day earlier in a bid to thwart police.

Mugabe has come under intense criticism internationally about the political and economic turmoil in the ailing southern African country.

His desire to attempt to prolong his term of office by a further two years to 2010 has raised the negative sentiment towards him at home and abroad. - Sapa

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