South African President Thabo Mbeki said that a regional security body will continue talks aimed at ending Zimbabwe's post-election political crisis after the end of the South African Development Community summit.
Zimbabwe's political rivals left a summit Sunday deadlocked over how to share power, as their divisions defied attempts by regional heads of state to find a resolution to the country's crisis.
A summit of southern African leaders and a meeting of a regional security body failed to bring the two sides to a settlement, leaving it unclear when or if the crisis that intensified with President Robert Mugabe's widely condemned re-election could be brought to a conclusion.
Both Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai attended the weekend summit of regional leaders in South Africa, where South African President Thabo Mbeki raised the possibility of a deal before the gathering ended.
But following the summit and the security meeting, Mbeki, the mediator for the Zimbabwe talks, said negotiations would continue, adding it "may be necessary to convene parliament" during that time.
Mugabe's ZANU-PF party and a smaller faction of the opposition led by Arthur Mutambara would have a parliamentary majority if they combined forces.
Mbeki, however, warned that a solution to Zimbabwe's crisis "won't last" unless all of the country's parties agree to it.
Disagreement centred on the division of power between Mugabe and Tsvangirai in a national unity government.
Angola's Foreign Minister Joao Miranda, who attended the talks, said that "the gap between the parties is narrower. Points of disagreement are not so wide."
But he added that "the parties still are far from each other though on one point, and that is the executive powers that should go to the president and the prime minister. That is the stumbling block."
The opposition's number two leader, Tendai Biti, speaking after the end of the meetings, said "failure is not an option" in the talks.
"It is critical that we conclude these negotiations very soon. I hope that wise counsel and wisdom will prevail ... We are fully and firmly committed to the process of dialogue."
A South African official close to the negotiations has said difficult issues included whether Mugabe would retain the right to hire and fire ministers and how long a transitional government would remain in place.
The opposition MDC wants a clause stating that if one of the parties pulls out of the government of national unity, elections would be held within 90 days, according to the official.
Tsvangirai boycotted Zimbabwe's June run-off election despite finishing ahead of Mugabe in the March first round of voting, citing violence against his supporters that had killed dozens and injured thousands.
The opposition leader believes he has the right to the lion's share of power based on his first-round total, while the ruling ZANU-PF party argues Mugabe must be recognised as president in any deal, as he won the June election.
As the crisis has remained unsettled, Zimbabwe's economy has continued its meltdown.
Once considered a regional breadbasket, the country now has the world's highest inflation rate, officially put at 2.2 million percent, and major food shortages.
Date created : 2008-08-18