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China says no influence over Zambia’s presidential elections

posted 20 Sept 2011, 10:13 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 20 Sept 2011, 10:17 ]

China denies rumours that it has been trying to influence the outcome of Zambia's presidential race.

BEIJING, CHINA (SEPTEMBER 20, 2011) REUTERS - China on Tuesday (September 20) denied that it had any influence over the closely contested presidential elections, as Zambians head to the polls on in a closely contested election in Africa's biggest cooper producer, between incumbent Rupiah Banda and nationalist opposition leader Michael Sata.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China was a friend to Africa's biggest copper producer.

"The rumours that China is trying to influence that Zambian elections are groundless. We know that Zambia will hold its general elections on September 20. As a friend of Zambia, China hopes that the Zambian elections move ahead in a smooth and steady manner," he told journalists at a regular foreign ministry news briefing.

The six week presidential campaign occasionally touched on the growing clout of foreign mining firms, most notably from China.

Banda, a former diplomat, has won accolades abroad for opening the country to international investment, especially from China, and providing clear regulations on operations that have helped keep the playing field level.

Sata, whose long and varied career includes work in British car assembly plants, has been a vocal critic of Asian mining investment, but toned it down in an interview with Reuters, saying he would keep Zambia's strong diplomatic and commercial ties with Beijing.

Chinese firms have become major players in the former British colony's $13 billion economy, with total investments by the end of 2010 topping $2 billion, according to Chinese embassy data.