Zimbabwe rivals may agree deal Saturday: Source

The source said a draft power-sharing agreement to end more than month of negotiations was being discussed on Saturday afternoon in a closed session of a summit of the 14-member SADC in Johannesburg.

Zimbabwe rivals may agree deal Saturday: Source
Zimbabwe's political rivals may sign a power-sharing agreement to end the country's political crisis on Saturday after regional leaders discussed a draft deal at a South African summit, a diplomatic source said.

The source said a draft power-sharing agreement to end more than month of negotiations was being discussed on Saturday afternoon in a closed session of a summit of the 14-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) in Johannesburg.

"The parties might even sign tonight," said the source, who is close to the talks.

South African President Thabo Mbeki said earlier that the summit of regional leaders could help Zimbabwe's rival parties complete the talks.

"This summit affords us the possibility to assist the Zimbabwean parties to finalise their negotiations so that together they can ... work to achieve national healing and reconciliation," Mbeki said at the start of a two-day SADC summit.

Mbeki, mandated by the SADC to mediate an end to post-election turmoil in Zimbabwe, urged a quick resolution to the country's crisis.

"I'm certain that the millions of Zimbabweans both inside and outside the country await with great expectations and high hopes a positive outcome from our deliberations," he said.

Mbeki met participants in the talks on Friday. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party said discussions would continue at the summit.

The South African leader, criticised for not taking a tough line with Mugabe, would score a political coup if an agreement were reached during the meeting.

Mugabe sat on the stage with other Southern African leaders at the summit opening ceremony while the leader of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Morgan Tsvangirai, sat in an observers' gallery.

Mbeki's spokesman said he had separate meetings with Mugabe, Arthur Mutambara, the leader of a breakaway MDC faction, and Tsvangirai on Friday.


REGIONAL PRESSURE

Asked how optimistic he was that talks would succeed, MDC Secretary-General Tendai Biti replied: "Fifty-fifty". Both he and Tsvangirai declined to answer further questions.

The Zimbabwean rivals are under increasing pressure to reach a power-sharing deal.

Botswana President Seretse Khama Ian Khama's decision to boycott the summit was a sign of growing pressure from regional leaders on Mugabe and the opposition.

Botswana has taken the toughest position among Zimbabwe's neighbours, but all fear the consequences if its political stalemate and economic decline lead to total meltdown.

Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa, recovering from a stroke in France, said in a statement read on his behalf that events in Zimbabwe were "a serious blot on the culture of democracy in our sub-region."

Millions of Zimbabweans have fled across the borders to escape the world's highest inflation rate of 2.2 million percent, widespread unemployment and shortages of food and fuel.

Power-sharing negotiations began last month after Mugabe's unopposed re-election in June, condemned throughout the world and boycotted by Tsvangirai because of attacks on his supporters.

Tsvangirai has said Zimbabwe's post-election government should be based on the result of the first-round presidential election on March 29, which he won but without a clear majority.

Three days of marathon discussions this week between Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara ended after the MDC leader refused to agree to a proposed power-sharing deal.

The South African labour federation COSATU held a protest at the start of the summit, with demonstrators carrying placards calling for SADC action on Zimbabwe. "SADC stop Mugabe's madness" and "Zimbabwe bleeds while SADC sleeps", placards read.

Reuters
Last Mod: 16 Ağustos 2008, 18:14
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