With the death toll from Zimbabwe's cholera epidemic standing at 589, President Robert Mugabe's government has accused Western powers of exploiting the outbreak to force the veteran leader's departure.

The African Union has made it clear it does not back calls for tougher action on Zimbabwe, saying only dialogue can solve the country's many problems.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on its website the number of cholera cases in Zimbabwe stood at 13,960 with 589 deaths.

The World Health Organisation has said that that up to 60,000 people could become infected with cholera in a worst-case scenario if the epidemic gets out of control.

The spreading cholera, food shortages and economic collapse in the country have prompted new demands from Western countries for Mr Mugabe to quit.

Mr Mugabe's spokesman, George Charamba, said the West is using the cholera outbreak to further aggression and to advocate an invasion of Zimbabwe in a bid to oust Mr Mugabe.

He said 'The British and the Americans are dead set on bringing Zimbabwe back to the UN Security Council. They are also dead set on ensuring that there is an invasion of Zimbabwe but without themselves carrying it out.'