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Harare - President Robert Mugabe has indicated clearly for the first time that he will disregard the result of the upcoming run-off election if his party loses, according to reports in the state press.
"We fought for this country and a lot of blood was shed," the state-controlled Herald quoted him as telling a rally on Sunday in Silobela, a village in the country's Central Midlands province.
"We are not going to give up our country because of a mere X. How can a ballpoint pen fight with a gun?" he said.
Senior officials in Mugabe's administration, including top army officials, have made similar remarks during campaigning ahead of the June 27 presidential run-off between Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Two weeks ago, Mugabe's wife Grace declared publicly: "Morgan Tsvangirai will never step foot in State House (the presidential residence)."
The 84-year-old Mugabe's remarks indicate he has hardened his position in the past week, while human rights workers and MDC officials reported escalating violence in townships around Harare. Mobs of Zanu-PF youths dragged people out of their homes at night, beat them up and forced them to denounce Tsvangirai, they said.
Tsvangirai and the MDC inflicted the first election defeat on Mugabe and his party, winning parliamentary elections and taking a majority in the presidential vote.
Official results showed that Tsvangirai had failed to obtain more than 50 percent of the vote needed for an outright win in the presidential election, making a run-off necessary.
The MDC says nearly 70 people have been murdered - several of them burnt alive and mutilated - while almost 3 000 people have had to be treated in hospital and 25 000 have been driven from their homes.
On Sunday, the Herald quoted Mugabe as saying thousands of Zimbabweans had died during the 1973-1979 civil war against white minority rule, and that "any attempt to reverse the gains of the struggle would be fiercely resisted".
Mugabe claims the MDC is run by the governments of Britain and the United States.
Observers say his remarks may indicate growing anxiety that he may lose the election despite the intimidation in the 10-week campaign period, and exacerbated by the accelerating economic decline.
The Zimbabwe dollar traded on Monday at 5,2-billion against the US dollar, compared with 3,5-billion on Friday. - Sapa-dpa