Zimbabwe talks still alive: Mbeki
Thursday, 31 July 2008

PRETORIA,July 30 (bdnews24.com/Reuters) - South African President Thabo Mbeki denied on Tuesday that talks between Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF and the opposition MDC had hit deadlock and said they were "doing very well".

Mbeki said the negotiators would adjourn for a few days to return to Zimbabwe to consult with their leaders.

A Movement for Democratic Change opposition official said on Monday that talks in Pretoria were deadlocked because the MDC could not accept an offer for its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, to be vice president of a unity government.

"They are continuing to talk. They haven't concluded and they will be adjourning shortly for a couple of days because they want to go to Harare and consult with their principals. And then they will come back by the end of the week," Mbeki told reporters in Pretoria.

Mugabe and Tsvangirai are under international pressure, including from within Africa, to negotiate a national unity government to end a crisis that has ruined Zimbabwe's economy and flooded neighboring states with millions of refugees.

Tsvangirai won a first round presidential vote in March but pulled out of a June second round citing violence which the MDC says has killed 120 of its supporters.

The MDC says only Tsvangirai can lead a new government.

Mbeki, who is mediating the talks, said the two sides were determined to keep to a two-week timetable agreed under a deal on the framework for discussions signed on July 21.

"They are doing very well...they undertook that they would try and conclude the negotiations within two weeks of the signing...They are indeed very determined to keep to that commitment and so they are continuing to talk among themselves and indeed to reach agreements about various matters that are on their agenda," Mbeki said.

UNITY GOVERNMENT

Senior negotiators from ZANU-PF and the MDC started full talks last Thursday.

The MDC official said Tsvangirai would meet his negotiators on Tuesday, before going to a regional meeting on politics, defence and security in Angola on Wednesday.

Concerned by the violence and the economic crisis in Zimbabwe, the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) are pushing for a power-sharing deal.

ZANU-PF has said it will not accept any deal that fails to recognize Mugabe's re-election or seeks to reverse his land redistribution program, under which the government has seized thousands of white-owned farms since 2000.

Critics say the seizures helped wreck the once prosperous economy and bring food shortages and inflation now running at over 2 million percent, but the opposition has said it would not go back on the land seizures.

The parties also disagree over how long a national unity government should remain in power. The MDC wants new elections held as soon as possible while Mugabe, who has ruled since 1980, wants to carry on with his new five-year mandate.

The leader of South Africa's ruling African National Congress, Jacob Zuma, said they should resume talks urgently.

"We are dealing with a situation that has unfortunately taken many people's lives and I think the leadership of both the ruling ZANU-PF and the opposition MDC should indeed realize that it is important to accept the fact that negotiation is a question of give and take," Zuma told reporters in Mozambique

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