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LUSAKA (Reuters) – Zambia will divert funds from some projects outlined in its budget to hold a fresh presidential vote, and Britain has offered to help finance the poll expected within 90 days, officials said on Thursday.

Evans Chibiliti, secretary to the Treasury, told journalists that some projects in “non-priority areas” would be suspended from Zambia’s $3 billion 2008 budget to divert funds to the presidential election.

“The government is providing resources to … the Electoral Commission of Zambia for conducting the presidential election,” Chibiliti said.

“This will be done within the provision of the 2008 budget by constraining expenditures and realigning resources without resorting to unprogrammed borrowing.”

Zambia President Levy Mwanawasa died in France on Tuesday after suffering a second stroke in Egypt in June. Rupiah Banda, Mwanawasa’s deputy, is acting president until early elections are held.

Under Zambia’s constitution, an election must be called within 90 days of the presidential office becoming vacant. The presidential term is five years.

Britain’s high commissioner to Zambia, Alistair Harrison, said his country would ask the Zambian government to provide details of funds required for the presidential vote, and would help mobilise more resources from other European countries.

The Treasury also said it would take extra measures to safeguard public expenditure from corruption or attempts by public officers to steal in the absence of a substantive president.

Zambian law bars the acting president from sacking presidential appointees in constitutional offices such as ministers, their deputies and the attorney general.

Chibiliti said the central bank and offices of the auditor general, the accountant general and the tender board would be extra vigilant in tracking government spending and tendering processes to avert corruption or stealing of public funds.

He reaffirmed that the government economic programme would be conducted within the IMF’s $79.2 million poverty reduction growth facility, a three-year lending programme which ties IMF loans to prudent government macroeconomic policy.

“It is the intention of the government that there will be no slippages in economic management in this period and strong fiscal management will be maintained,” Chibiliti added.

Justice Minister George Kunda told a separate news conference that the cabinet was behind Banda as acting president and that the president, who will be elected within 90 days, would serve until 2011, to complete the remainder of the time Mwanawasa should have been in office.

That president would be eligible for a final five-year term, Kunda said.

© Reuters 2008. All Rights Reserved.

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