Full Zimbabwe crisis talks to start on Thursday

Mbeki, mediating in the crisis, secured a framework deal between Mugabe and opposition leader Tsvangirai on Monday for talks aimed at ending the deadlock since Mugabe's re-election in a poll boycotted by the opposition because of violence.

Full Zimbabwe crisis talks to start on Thursday
Zimbabwe's opposition MDC and President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF will begin negotiations on a power-sharing deal in earnest on Thursday, officials said on Wednesday.

The rivals kicked off preliminary talks on Tuesday aimed at ending Zimbabwe's crisis, South African President Thabo Mbeki's spokesman said. He declined to say what was discussed on Tuesday.

"I won't talk about what it is. I will say talks resumed, and talks are continuing," Mukoni Ratshitanga said. "They have started more or less. (They will be) in earnest tomorrow."

Mbeki, mediating in the crisis, secured a framework deal between Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai on Monday for talks aimed at ending the deadlock since Mugabe's re-election on June 27 in a poll boycotted by the opposition because of violence.

Pressure for power-sharing has come from regional states concerned by the political and economic crisis that has forced millions of refugees to flee to Zimbabwe's neighbours, most of them to South Africa.

Zimbabwe's state-run Herald newspaper said Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa and Public Services Minister Nicholas Goche would represent ZANU-PF at negotiations, while the MDC would be represented by secretary-general Tendai Biti and deputy treasurer Elton Mangoma. A splinter faction of the MDC would also have two negotiators at the talks.

The MDC says 120 of its supporters have been killed since a first round of elections on March 29, in which Tsvangirai beat Mugabe but without the absolute majority to avoid a run-off. Mugabe blames the opposition for the bloodshed.


DIFFERENCES

The main aim of the Pretoria talks will be the creation of a government of national unity, but the two sides differ on who should lead it and how long it should stay in power.

Mbeki has said the Zimbabwean parties face a tight two-week deadline to conclude the talks, which are expected to be tense and possibly acrimonious. The MDC has accused Mugabe and ZANU-PF of violating human rights and rigging elections.

The European Union on Tuesday increased pressure on Mugabe, saying it had agreed additional sanctions on Zimbabwe to target 37 more individuals and four companies linked to the government.

The breakthrough between Zimbabwe's rivals appeared to follow Mbeki's agreement late last week to expand the mediation process to include the African Union, the United Nations and other officials of the Southern African Development Community.

Mbeki had been increasingly criticised, especially by the MDC, which accused him of taking too soft a line with Mugabe.

Mugabe, 84, has dismissed the MDC as a puppet of the West and vowed never to let it take power. The president, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, has also insisted that the opposition accept his unopposed victory last month.

Zimbabwe's economy has been in freefall since 2000, with the world's highest modern-day inflation at over two million percent, a virtually worthless currency, crippling food and fuel shortages and 80 percent unemployment.

On Wednesday, Zimbabwe's trade union federation ZCTU wrote a letter to Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono, asking him to relax limits on cash withdrawals from bank accounts.

The letter, a copy of which was sent to Reuters, said the maximum cash withdrawal limit of 100 billion Zimbabwe dollars was not enough for urban workers whose daily public transport costs alone amount to about 150 billion Zimbabwe dollars.

Reuters
Last Mod: 23 Temmuz 2008, 15:56
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