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By Shapi Shacinda

LUSAKA, Oct 29 (Reuters) – Zambia’s army chief warned on Wednesday that violence would not be tolerated in the southern African nation’s presidential poll.

Zambians will on Thursday elect a leader of one of Africa’s most stable and economically succesful nations.

A senior intelligence official said soldiers would be placed on high alert after voting closes at 1600 GMT to prevent any violence ahead of results expected on Friday night.

“We have heard that some people are planning to cause bloodshed in this country. We will not allow them. We are trained to defend this country,” army chief General Isaac Chisuzi said in an address to soldiers in a Lusaka army barracks.

“Therefore, we should deal with anybody who would try to cause violence.”

Chisuzi’s comments, broadcast on state television, were unusual. Normally senior police officials issue such warnings ahead of elections or other high-profile political events.

The two main contenders are acting President Rupiah Banda and opposition leader Michael Sata, of the Patriotic Front.

“The country will be placed on high security beginning tomorrow at 6 pm. Soldiers are expected to patrol townships as a precaution against threats to peace after the election,” the senior intelligence official told Reuters.

Whoever wins will replace late President Levy Mwanawasa, who won praise from Western donors for his prudent economic management and crackdown on corruption, helping turn Zambia into a rare African success story.

“I will not tolerate any threats to the peace of this country,” said Chisuzi.

Sata alleged that rigging deprived him of victory in the 2006 election he lost to Mwanawasa. Sata has accused the government of rigging this time around as well and said he will not accept the results if he loses.

He called on his supporters at a rally on Wednesday to sleep outside polling booths to deter rigging. (Reporting by Shapi Shacinda; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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