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Nov 22, 4:14 AM EST

The Latest: China respects Mugabe exit, still 'good friend'

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HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) -- The Latest on Zimbabwe's political turmoil (all times local):

11:15 a.m.

China says it respects the choice of Robert Mugabe to resign as president of Zimbabwe and that he "is still our good friend."

China's foreign ministry says that Mugabe "made historic contributions to the national independence and liberation cause in Zimbabwe" and "has long been committed to friendship between China and Zimbabwe."

Ministry spokesman Lu Kang also says China hopes that other countries can refrain from interfering in Zimbabwe's domestic affairs. That comes after the United States called for "free and fair elections."

Mugabe's resignation was announced during Parliament impeachment proceedings. He stepped down under immense pressure after 37 years in power.

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9:15 a.m.

Zimbabwe's recently fired vice president is set to return today to be sworn in as the country's new leader.

The transfer of power to Emmerson Mnangagwa comes after Robert Mugabe announced his resignation in the middle of impeachment proceedings again him.

Zimbabweans erupted in response, cheering and dancing in the streets.

Now the focus turns to Mnangagwa, Mugabe's longtime deputy who was pushed aside earlier this month as unpopular first lady Grace Mugabe positioned herself to replace him and succeed her husband. Mnangagwa fled the country, claiming threats on his life.

That led the military to step in a week ago, opening the door for the ruling party and the people to publicly turn against the president.

It is not clear what Robert and Grace Mugabe will do next.

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