By Jonny Hogg
KINSHASA (Reuters) - Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila on Monday conceded "mistakes" had been made in the recent election which returned him to power, but rejected criticism by monitors that the results lacked credibility.
Citing "impossibly high" turnout in Kabila strongholds and uncounted ballots in opposition bastions, the U.S.-based Carter Center on Saturday cast doubt on the reliability of provisional results released last Friday.
But on Monday Kabila brushed off doubts cast by the observer mission established by former President Jimmy Carter.
"The credibility of these elections cannot be put in doubt. Were there mistakes? Definitely, but (the Carter Center) has definitely gone far beyond what was expected," Kabila told a news conference in Kinshasa.
Veteran opposition challenger Etienne Tshisekedi called the results "a provocation" and said he considered himself Congo's new president.
Gunfire erupted in parts of Congo over the weekend and the opposition has announced plans for protests. The European Union and the United States have urged calm as Congo waits for its Supreme Court to decide whether to validate results from the vote, Congo's second since the country's 1998-2003 war.
The vote was meant to move the country down a path towards greater stability after the war, which claimed over five million lives, but instead it has been was marked by violence and chaotic preparations in addition to the allegations of fraud.
Kabila pointed to his own disappointing scores in the eastern provinces of North and South Kivu as proof that the election process had been transparent and said Tshisekedi's self-declaration as poll winner was not a surprise.
"Am I uncomfortable with the results? Definitely not ... We wanted to score better in some provinces, especially in North and South Kivu. So we lost some and we won some," he said.
Kabila took nearly 49 percent of the votes to Tshisekedi's roughly 32 percent, the election commission announced on Friday but inconsistencies abound.
In one district of the southern province of Katanga where Kabila has strong support, voter turnout was recorded at 100.14 percent with Kabila winning 99.98 percent of the votes.
The election commission website also showed that the results from nearly 2,000 polling stations in the capital Kinshasa, an opposition stronghold, had not been tallied.
Diplomats fear an escalation of the dispute but Kabila, who assumed power in 2001 after his father Laurent was assassinated at the height of the war, said it was business as usual.
"We don't have a crisis in this country ... We're going to stay calm and continue with the day-to-day activities of the state," he said, reaffirming his confidence that the economy will see double-digit growth in the next two to three years.
Without spelling out what any talks could entail, Kabila suggested he and his party would be ready for dialogue with opponents once the Supreme Court had given its verdict on the results, as it must do before a deadline of December 17.
"We have always been for dialogue, but what are the issues? Do we have any subjects to discuss? ... We can only do that when the Supreme Court gives its final verdict," he said.
Addressing allegations his security forces had used live rounds in some clashes with protesters, Kabila denied they had used excessive force. No official death toll has been issued but separate reports have suggested at least 20 people have died in election-related violence in the run-up to the poll and beyond.
"Have we seen violence from the security forces?" said Kabila. "I don't think so. If we'd seen that we would have had tens or hundreds of deaths."
(Writing by Mark John; Editing by Richard Valdmanis)