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Talks to resume Sunday, Mbeki says

Latest update : 2008-07-30

Following a meeting with President Robert Mugabe in Harare, South African President Thabo Mbeki told reporters Wednesday that the talks between the Mugabe and his political rival Morgan Tsvangirai would resume Sunday.


HARARE - Talks between Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party and the opposition MDC aimed at resolving the country's political crisis will resume on Sunday, South African President Thabo Mbeki said on Wednesday.


Mbeki said after an hour-long meeting with Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe that the talks, which adjourned for a couple of days on Tuesday to allow negotiators to consult with their respective leader, were going well.


"It is work in progress. The negotiators are working hard and have committed themselves to the time-frame. They will resume on Sunday," Mbeki told reporters after meeting Mugabe, who said earlier that he wanted the negotiations to succeed.


In a sign of the economic collapse that has been worsened by the political turmoil, the central bank said it would redenominate the worthless currency to cut 10 zeroes from the Zimbabwe dollar, but analysts said that would do nothing to help the economy.


Mugabe's party began power-sharing talks with the opposition in South Africa last week, but doubts have surfaced over progress after they were adjourned.


"We're still negotiating, we want to succeed. Negotiations are negotiations, they are not a card game... You find room for compromise, sometimes compromise is difficult and you stand by your proposals as presented," Mugabe said in his first public comments on the talks since a framework for discussion was signed on July 21.


"You debate again and again and reach a compromise. I understand the talks are going well," Mugabe said.


Mbeki denied on Tuesday that talks had reached a deadlock.


On Wednesday Mbeki said he had travelled to Harare to brief Mugabe on the talks, adding that there were some matters on which the rival negotiators needed to consult their respective leaders.


South Africa's department of foreign affairs said in a statement that Mbeki had met opposition Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his negotiating team in Pretoria on Tuesday.






A two-week deadline for completing the talks runs out on Aug. 4, but it could be extended.


Mugabe and Tsvangirai are under pressure from within Africa and the rest of the world to negotiate a national unity government to end a crisis that has ruined Zimbabwe's economy and flooded neighbouring states with millions of refugees.


Central bank governor Gideon Gono said on Wednesday the currency would be redenominated by removing 10 zeros from Aug. 1 in the government's latest bid to prop up the failing economy.


A loaf of bread currently costs around 250 billion Zimbabwe dollars -- $4 using the official bank rate and between $0.04 and $2 on the thriving black market. The highest denomination bill is 100 billion dollars.


Zimbabwe last redenominated its currency in 2006, removing three zeros, but this was followed by sharp price increases.


John Robertson, an economic consultant in Harare, said the latest redenomination would not address the root causes of the crisis in a once-prosperous country suffering food shortages and inflation at over 2 million percent a year.


"This is just to overcome the absurd difficulty of having to deal with all those zeros," Robertson said.


It is unclear what compromise could be reached at the power-sharing talks.


The MDC says only Tsvangirai can lead a new government because he won a first round presidential vote in March and only pulled out of a June run-off vote because of violence he says killed 122 of his supporters.


ZANU-PF has said it will not accept any deal that fails to recognise Mugabe's re-election.


The parties also disagree over how long a national unity government should remain in power. The MDC wants new elections held as soon as possible while Mugabe, who has ruled since 1980, wants to carry on with his new five-year mandate.

Date created : 2008-07-30