The Archbishop of York has urged members of Zimbabwe's security forces not to prop up Robert Mugabe's regime.

Dr John Sentamu, one of the most senior members of the Anglican church, is leading a day of fasting and prayer in support of the people of Zimbabwe.

He urged the army and police not to "terrorise the ordinary citizens".

In December, Dr Sentamu cut up his clerical collar on television and said he would not replace it until President Mugabe was out of office.

'Basket case'

There has been a month of deadlock in Zimbabwe following disputed elections.

Dr Sentamu called on the public to join him in prayer for the country.

He said: "My plea, really to the army and to the police, is very simple.

"Your job is not to prop up a government that actually lacks legitimacy, but to protect every citizen of Zimbabwe.

"And if Mugabe has lost the election, for heaven's sake don't prop him up.

"As a Christian community we must all stand together with our brothers and sisters living under the tyranny of Mugabe and pray that they will find deliverance."

On Thursday, Dr Sentamu released a joint statement with the Archbishop of Canterbury calling for international action to prevent "horrific" violence in Zimbabwe.

And, speaking on Sunday, he told the BBC: "I've visited it a number of times and it was the bread basket of that region.

"It's now a basket case and the problems of Zimbabwe actually affect a lot of us - it's not just them."

He said that on other international issues, such as global warming and the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, there had been "a coalition of nations" prepared to speak out.

"But, for Zimbabwe, it seems as if it doesn't really matter," he said. "And I actually think that the international community and all of us must be concerned about a country which once was a real showcase in Africa and now really is terrible."

In Zimbabwe, Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party has failed to regain its parliamentary majority after a partial recount of votes from polls last month.

The opposition MDC says it also won presidential polls, although those results remain unreleased.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) said the presidential results could be announced after the completion of the recounts, expected by Monday.

The head of the Anglican church in southern Africa, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, told the BBC he wanted a weapons embargo to be imposed against Zimbabwe.

"I would say Zimbabwe needs food, peace and security and not the arms. I would support such an embargo," Mr Makgoba said.

BBC News