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17 Jul 2008 10:20
Efforts to agree on a framework for talks aimed at ending Zimbabwe’s political crisis stalled on Thursday as state media accused the opposition leader of pulling out of a deal at the last moment.
Government sources quoted in the state-run Herald daily said representatives of the ruling Zanu-PF and two factions of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) had reached agreement on Wednesday that would have allowed substantive talks between the two sides to begin under South African mediation.
However, the paper said that main MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai had declined to sign up to the agreement after a discussion with the chairperson of the African Union Commission, Jean Ping, who is due in the region later this week.
“It was agreed that the MoU [memorandum of understanding] was to be signed in Harare on Wednesday by the three principals and that commitment was conveyed to the facilitator,” said an unnamed official quoted in the Herald.
“On Wednesday morning, Tsvangirai indicated that he was not going to attend because he had received instructions from Jean Ping not to sign the MoU.”
In comments to the Star, Tsvangirai confirmed he had not yet put his signature to an agreement but wanted to wait until Ping holds talks with South African President Thabo Mbeki in Pretoria on Friday.
“It is not that we are refusing to sign, but that the processes need to be tightened,” he said.
According to sources on both sides, the framework agreement sets out the agenda for the talks and includes calls for an immediate cessation of violence, one of the key demands of the opposition.
Tsvangirai has been pushing for greater involvement from the African Union, having deemed that Mbeki is inherently biased towards Zanu-PF and veteran President Robert Mugabe.
Mugabe’s camp, meanwhile, has shown it is more than happy for any mediation process to be led by Mbeki, with Zimbabwean Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu praising him as an African leader “par excellence as he has not yielded to international pressure and to the machinations of the West”.
Tsvangirai won a first round of a presidential election against Mugabe in March although he fell just short of an absolute majority.
He pulled out of a run-off in June after dozens of his supporters were killed in attacks he blamed on Zanu-PF followers. Mugabe still went ahead with the poll, winning a sixth term by a predictable landslide.—AFP
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