Zimbabwean Prez `confident` of winning 2011 elections

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is Africa`s oldest leader.

Mutare: Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Saturday said he was "very confident" of victory after his party backed him to contest a likely election next year against his arch-foe Morgan Tsvangirai.

Mugabe, Africa`s oldest leader and in power since independence from Britain in 1980, was officially endorsed by his ZANU-PF followers as its presidential candidate at the party`s annual conference in the eastern city of Mutare.

Tsvangirai`s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) conceded for the first time that a Presidential Election could take place in 2011, but it ruled out parliamentary polls until 2013.

Mugabe, 86, could stay in office until well into his nineties if he wins a new ballot that for months he has insisted must take place next year because a power-sharing deal with Tsvangirai, the current prime minister, is not working.

An official document released at the end of the conference "unanimously endorsed" Mugabe to contest a presidential vote next year and insisted that the country must also hold Parliamentary Elections "in 2011 without fail”.

"Very confident, sure why not?" he later told reporters when asked if he thought he would win another election.

The long-serving ruler, slammed by human rights groups and the West for stifling democracy and sweeping abuses, had earlier addressed thousands of ZANU-PF delegates, setting the tone for a heated battle against the MDC.

"We are indeed a fired up, fuelled and fast-moving train. Those who stand in the way of that train stand the risk of being crushed," said Mugabe.

"Let other parties now take care... 2008 will never come back again, never, never, ever," he said, alluding to the election win that year of Tsvangirai`s MDC. "We cannot fail because that would be a disaster," Mugabe added.

ZANU-PF party chairman Simon Moyo earlier urged its members to prepare for elections in 2011.

He also hit out at Tsvangirai, who for almost two years has shared power with long-time foe Mugabe after the disputed Presidential Election in 2008.

"We want to bury, once and for all, this Western project called the MDC," Moyo said. "We must bury forever this combined British and American non-governmental organisation. For that is what the MDC is," he added.

The uneasy "unity" government has been on the brink of collapse for months with Mugabe and Tsvangirai at loggerheads over how to handle the country`s massive debt and food shortages, and internal haggling over who gets key jobs.

On Friday, Mugabe told more than 4,000 delegates attending the conference that the power-sharing agreement between ZANU-PF and the MDC must end.

He also threatened to nationalise British and American companies operating in Zimbabwe if the international community failed to drop restrictions placed on him, his wife and key lieutenants.

Mugabe and members of his inner circle are subject to travel bans and asset freezes in the European Union and the United States, which accuse him and his allies of human rights abuses and denials of basic freedoms.

Bureau Report

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