China reported on Tuesday that its shipment of weapons bound for Zimbabwe is likely to return following the refusal of port workers in Southern African countries to have access to its ports.

Regional states were urged by Zambia, chair of the Southern African Development Community grouping, to deny access to their respective ports.

According to Zambia, the weapons could deepen Zimbabwe's election crisis.

Union, church and human rights leaders across southern Africa rallied against allowing the Chinese freighter An Yue Jiang to dock at ports in any of landlocked Zimbabwe's neighbors, and they were bolstered by behind-the-scenes pressure from the United States.

Church leaders have urged for international intervention and reported that in Zimbabwe people were being tortured, abducted and murdered in a campaign of retribution against opposition supporters following the March 29 election.

Washington asked the Chinese government to recall the vessel and not to ship further weapons to Zimbabwe until the postelection crisis is resolved.

Post election violence has resulted in 3,000 people displaced, 500 injured and 10 dead.