ZIMBABWE

Opposition refuses to join Mugabe government

Zimbabwe's main opposition party says it will not join a government with President Robert Mugabe until a constitutional amendment is passed to ensure the terms of a power-sharing deal agreed in September.

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Zimbabwe's main opposition party said Friday it will not join a unity government with President Robert Mugabe until the rivals resolve their differences over a power-sharing deal.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said it would only join a unity government once a constitutional amendment is passed to comply with all the terms of the power-sharing deal signed two months ago.

"Neither Robert Mugabe nor ZANU-PF has the legitimacy of forming any government or running this country in the absence of the consummation of the global power-sharing agreement," MDC deputy leader Thokozani Khupe said in a statement after a party meeting.

Citing an asassination plot to eliminate the MDC top leadership and renewed violence, the party accused the ruling ZANU-PF of an "obstructionist approach, lack of paradigm shift and (an) entrenched power retention agenda".

Mugabe has vowed to soon form a new government after regional leaders proposed last weekend that his ZANU-PF and the MDC immediately set up a new cabinet. The proposal was rejected by the opposition.

Under the deal signed on September 15, Mugabe would remain as president while MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai would take the new post of prime minister.

But parliament needs to approve an amendment to create the office of the prime minister and define its powers.

Khupe said that MDC would not join the government until the amendment was passed and other outstanding issues -- including the appointment of provincial governors -- are resolved.

She also criticised the leaders of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) for proposing a new government and the sharing of the key home affairs post which controls the police.

"Our issues were not addressed by SADC," Khupe said. "All our issues were glossed over and narrowed down to the issue of the home affairs ministry."

The party urged top officials of SADC and the African Union, as the guarantors of the September deal, to step in and end the deadlock.

Khupe denied that there were ongoing talks between the MDC and ZANU-PF on the inclusive government but insisted that the MDC would not pull out of the power-sharing deal.

"We are committed and we remain committed to this dialogue," she said, after the meeting which was attended by the party's top officials except Tsvangirai who was in South Africa.

The political feuding has dashed the hopes of ordinary Zimbabweans that their daily struggle for survival could ease.

With inflation running at more than 231 million percent, half of the population requires emergency food aid, while a breakdown in basic services has led to deadly outbreaks of cholera in Harare.

Western nations have said they are ready to release hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, but not while Mugabe retains his sole grip on power.

Former UN secretary general Kofi Annan said Friday that he and former US president Jimmy Carter will visit Zimbabwe next week to find ways to ease the country's deepening humanitarian crisis.

They will travel with rights activist Graca Machel, wife of former South African president Nelson Mandela, on November 22-23 on a mission to prevent the crisis from worsening, Annan said in a statement.

"Relieving the suffering of millions of people must be the priority of Zimbabwe's leaders," Annan said in a statement. "But global attention is also slipping as Zimbabwe's humanitarian crisis worsens."

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