Botswana break ranks with other African countries, says Zimbabwe poll wasn't free and fair

Zimbabwe's western neighbor, Botswana, says disputed elections won by President Robert Mugabe did not meet acceptable standards and has warned southern African nations against violating commitments to democracy by accepting the result.

The Botswana government, breaking ranks with other African observers, said the region "should not create the undesirable precedent of permitting exceptions to its own rules" on the conduct of Zimbabwe's voting.

In a statement in Harare on Tuesday, Botswana said its 80 poll observers concluded that conditions for free and fair elections were not met because of widespread irregularities.

Botswana's criticism of the Zimbabwean elections contrasts with the approval given by other African countries. Tanzania and Kenya have applauded the polls. President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, the chief mediator on Zimbabwe, congratulated Mugabe on his victory.