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Mugabe, SA hail progress in Zim talks

Zimbabwe’s power-sharing talks are making good progress but no meeting has been set between President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, Mugabe’s spokesperson said on Thursday.

Zimbabwean media had said earlier that the two were expected to hold their first meeting since agreeing to the talks last month, and that South African President Thabo Mbeki, chief mediator in the talks, was also due in Harare.

Mugabe’s spokesperson, George Charamba, said the talks were ”going on very well”, but there would be no meeting of leaders on Thursday and Mbeki was not expected in town.

There was no comment from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, but South Africa also said earlier that the talks were making good progress.

The two sides began talking over two weeks ago to defuse a crisis caused by the re-election of Mugabe in a poll boycotted by the opposition and widely condemned internationally.

”Government as the mediator will not be giving any details of the talks except to say that they are progressing extremely well,” a South African spokesperson said.

Zimbabwean political analyst Eldred Masunungure said the fact that the teams were still at the table suggested the negotiations were on course.

”I think we are only going to get a meeting of the principal leaders either to clear hurdles over any serious disagreements or to seal an agreement,” Masunungure said.

Johannesburg’s Star newspaper said South African mediators had met Zimbabwean security chiefs, seen as key to any resolution to the crisis which has ruined the once prosperous economy and flooded neighbouring states with millions of refugees.

The paper, citing unnamed sources, said the officials ”wanted to ensure that their interests are catered for in any agreement reached”.

The powerful security officials are unlikely to accept any power-sharing deal unless they are given protection from international justice, analysts say.

Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF and the MDC, under heavy international pressure to resolve the crisis, called on their supporters on Wednesday to end political violence, the clearest sign of progress in the talks to date.

Under a draft settlement reported on Wednesday, Tsvangirai would run the country as executive prime minister for a transitional period, with one deputy from each party, while Mugabe would become ceremonial president.

But the Star said the MDC wants a 24-30 month transitional period, while Zanu-PF wants a five-year transition. – Reuters

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