Reuters International

President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace arrive to chair ZANU PF's Politburo meeting at the party headquarters in Harare, Zimbabwe, February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

(reuters_tickers)

By Cris Chinaka

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe was quoted as saying on Sunday that his ZANU-PF party and the people saw no viable successor to him for general elections in 2018.

"They want me to stand for elections, they want me to stand for elections everywhere in the party ... The majority of the people feel that there is no replacement, successor who to them is acceptable, as acceptable as I am," he said in comments to state media ahead of his 93rd birthday this coming week.

"The people, you know, would want to judge everyone else on the basis of President Mugabe as the criteria," he said.

Mugabe has been in power since 1980 and in December his party confirmed him as its candidate for the next presidential election expected in mid-2018, when he will be 94.

"Of course if I feel that I can’t do it anymore, I will say so to my party so that they relieve me. But for now I think I can’t say so," Mugabe said.

Mugabe, known for his combative style, said he agreed with U.S. President Donald Trump's "America for America" approach.

"When it comes to Donald Trump, on the one hand talking of American nationalism, well America for America, America for Americans - on that we agree. Zimbabwe for Zimbabweans," he said.

Zimbabwe's economy is in trouble and banks only have enough cash in offshore accounts to finance about two weeks' worth of the country's imports, the central bank said on Wednesday.

Critics accuse Mugabe of wrecking one of Africa's most promising economies through policies such as violent seizures of white-owned commercial farms and money printing. He and his party say the economy has been undermined by western powers.

Mugabe's comments were published in the state-run Sunday Mail newspaper and the full interview - a tradition for Mugabe's birthdays - will be broadcast on Zimbabwe state TV on Monday and Tuesday.

(Editing by Ed Stoddard and Mark Potter)

Reuters

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