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SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (AFP) — Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa was taken to hospital with chest pains on the eve of an African Union summit in Egypt on Sunday but was in a stable condition, medical sources said.

Mwanawasa had been due to take part in meeting of the pan-African bloc’s Peace and Security Council on Sunday evening expected to be dominated by the crisis in his southern African country’s neighbour Zimbabwe.

But he was forced to skip the meeting after suffering acute chest pains which prompted his hospitalisation in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, medics and a delegate to the meeting said.

The Zambian government has had strained relations with Zimbabwe in recent months amid accusations from Harare that it has been in cahoots with Western governments in seeking to topple the government of President Robert Mugabe.

Unlike some other southern African heads of state, the Zambian president has taken a tough line against Mugabe’s regime, likening the economic meltdown across his country’s southern border to a “sinking Titanic”.

Mwanawasa, 59, has ruled Zambia since 2002. His predecessor Frederick Chiluba has since faced corruption investigations but the incumbent too has drawn accusations of nepotism and tribalism, even from within his own ruling party.

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