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Mbeki sees Zimbabwe deal soon

Latest update : 2008-08-14

South African President Thabo Mbeki said he was convinced a deal in Zimbabwe would be reached soon to form an "inclusive" government despite widespread fears that power-sharing talks could go on without opposition head Morgan Tsvangirai.

South African President Thabo Mbeki said Wednesday he was confident Zimbabwe's rival political leaders could reach a deal on an "inclusive" government, despite the adjournment of talks.

Visiting Angola after mediating three days of negotiations in Zimbabwe that broke up late Tuesday, Mbeki said he was "convinced that very soon we will conclude these negotiations", Angolan state radio reported.

Mbeki flew to Angola from Harare on Wednesday morning to update President Jose Eduardo dos Santos after the break up of the talks between Zimbabwe's rival political leaders aimed at ending the country's political crisis.

Dos Santos serves as chair of the security arm of the 14-nation Southern African Development Community regional bloc.

After the talks Tuesday, Mbeki said main Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai needed "time to consider."

"We have dealt with all the elements on which President Mugabe and Mutambara agree, but there is disagreement on one element over which Morgan Tsvangirai had asked for time to reflect," Mbeki said.

"We have adjourned to give Morgan Tsvangirai more time to consider these matters."

An official from Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF said the ruling party had reached a deal with a smaller opposition faction led by Arthur Mutambara to form a government.

The two sides would have a majority in parliament if they combined forces. The ruling party lost its parliamentary majority for the first time since independence in the recent elections.

Mutambara said Wednesday no deal had been signed, but he indicated Tsvangirai was the only holdout to an agreement among all three sides.

He said the rivals had "agreement on everything except on one aspect."

"Morgan Tsvangirai has requested time to reflect and consult," Mutambara told reporters.

He declined to name the issue that Tsvangirai has objected to, but said "on our side, as a party we have no problems on that aspect."

Tsvangirai has refused to discuss details of the talks, but issued a statement Wednesday saying he remained "committed to reaching an agreement that upholds the will of the people.

"We knew negotiations would be difficult, but a resolution that represents anything other than the will of the Zimbabwean people would be a disaster for our country," Tsvangirai said.

Referring to the the first round of the presidential election, in which he finished ahead of Mugabe, Tsvangirai said: "We are committed to a solution that recognises that the people spoke on the 29th of March 2008."

This week's talks came ahead of a summit of regional leaders in South Africa this weekend, with Mbeki expected to brief his peers on the state of the Zimbabwe negotiations.

Trade unions are planning protests against Mugabe's participation in the summit in the absence of a negotiated settlement to the crisis.

Zimbabwe's crisis intensified after Tsvangirai boycotted the June presidential run-off election, saying dozens of his supporters had been killed and thousands injured.

Power-sharing talks began after the rivals signed a deal on July 21 laying the framework for negotiations, leading to more than two weeks of discussions in South Africa between representatives of the three sides.

Tsvangirai believes his first-round total gives him the right to the lion's share of power. The ruling ZANU-PF party has insisted Mugabe must be recognised as president in any deal, as he won the June vote.

Negotiations have reportedly included proposals for Mugabe, who has ruled since independence from Britain in 1980, to take on a more ceremonial role in exchange for amnesty from prosecution, with Tsvangirai being made executive prime minister.

Date created : 2008-08-14