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LUSAKA (AFP) — Zambia’s acting president Rupiah Banda called for national unity Thursday ahead of presidential elections and assured foreign investors not to panic at the outcome of the polls.

Banda said that, if elected, he would continue to pursue the same liberal economic policies which Zambia put into place under the government of late president Levy Mwanawasa, who died last month after suffering a stroke.

“These policies have made us one of the most stable countries on the African continent. Let us remain united as we go for elections,” Banda told reporters at the launch of his presidential campaign.

Zambia will hold presidential elections on Octber 30 to replace Mwanawasa.

“Over the past seven years this government has worked hard to get our economy moving and we have been successful,” Banda said, assuring foreign investors.

The Zambian economy experienced unprecedented growth under Mwanawasa’s rule, which the international community, including the World Bank and International Monetary Fund have hailed as a model for fiscal discipline.

Banda, who is tipped to win the elections, is the governing Movement for Multiparty Democracy’s presidential hopeful. His main rival is veteran opposition leader Michael Sata of the Patriotic Front.

The third formidable candidate is Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development.

Banda, 71, served as foreign minister before he was appointed Zambia’s ambassador to the United Nations and later to Washington in the first government of President Kenneth Kaunda.

He was appointed Vice President by Mwanawasa in 2006.

Copyright © 2008 AFP. All rights reserved.

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