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Yet again, no deal for Zimbabwe

Staff Reporter

Zimbabwe's main rivals failed to reach a settlement on the final day of a regional summit where the country's crisis was high on the agenda.

Zimbabwe’s main rivals failed to reach a settlement on the final day of a regional summit where the country’s crisis was high on the agenda, a spokesperson for the opposition leader said on Sunday.

“We’re finished,” said George Sibotshiwe, spokesperson for Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai, referring to Tsvangirai’s meetings with regional leaders at the Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit in Johannesburg.

Asked if there was an agreement, he said: “No, not at all.” He declined to discuss details of the talks at the summit, saying only that Tsvangirai had met the heads of state and that the MDC was planning a news conference for later in the day.

Major stumbling blocks were said to remain in the talks, with much of the disagreement centred on the distribution of power between Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe.

A South African official close to the negotiations said remaining sticking points included whether Mugabe would retain the right to hire and fire ministers and how long a transitional government would remain in place.

The MDC wants a clause stating that if one of the parties pulled out of the government of national unity, elections would be held within 90 days, according to the official.

“It’s better not to have a deal than to have a bad deal,” Tsvangirai told the New York Times in an interview published on Sunday.

South African President Thabo Mbeki, the regionally appointed mediator for the Zimbabwe talks, had raised the possibility on Saturday that a deal could be reached before the end of the meeting.

SADC’s troika on security issues also agreed that a deal to resolve the crisis should be signed during the summit, a foreign minister who attended the meeting said. The body comprises Angola, Tanzania and Swaziland.

However, the troika will continue to meet the leaders of Zimbabwe to find a “speedy resolution” to the political situation in the country, Mbeki said on Sunday.

In his closing address at the summit, he said the council had been meeting Zimbabwe’s rival leaders and will continue to do so even after the summit officially closed.

“The [troika] continues to engage with this matter and indeed after we have formally closed the organ will convene again. It is an indication of the seriousness with which SADC approaches this question,” he said.

“[They need to reach] a speedy conclusion of negotiations so that it indeed becomes possible to address the enormous challenges that face the masses of the people of Zimbabwe,” said Mbeki.

Earlier, Seychelles President James Michel said his country applauded the “courage and wisdom” of the Zimbabwean people. He also paid tribute to Mbeki for his “exemplary” efforts in his role as a mediator.

Michel said it was a “very special day” for Seychelles that it had been readmitted after a five-year stayaway from SADC.

He said reasons for withdrawing from SADC earlier had been financial. However, a “more realistic membership fee” had been negotiated.

Michel was adamant that though it is a small country, Seychelles has a role to play in SADC.

“We may be small but we will also give of our best to promoting the interests of SADC as a sincere and responsible partner,” he said.—Sapa

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