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Tsvangirai says he’s still committed to Zim talks

Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, said on Wednesday he was still committed to power-sharing negotiations after three days of talks with President Robert Mugabe broke off without a deal.

In a statement, Tsvangirai said Zimbabwe’s post-election government should be based on the March 29 first-round presidential election — which he won, but not by a clear majority.

Negotiations followed Mugabe’s unopposed re-election in June in a poll from which Tsvangirai withdrew because of attacks on his supporters. The ballot was condemned around the world.

Key to the negotiations is who gets which leadership positions and with which powers.

Mugabe and Tsvangirai met in Harare for three days in the latest round. It ended on Tuesday night without reaching agreement, dimming hopes of an end to a post-election crisis that has worsened Zimbabwe’s economic decline.

”The Movement for Democratic Change [MDC] remains committed to participating in any meaningful and genuine dialogue that urgently moves this process forward,” Tsvangirai said in the emailed statement.

”We are committed to a solution that recognises that the people spoke on the 29th of March 2008 — a solution that ensures tangible deliverables are put on the table of Zimbabweans. A solution must thus put the people first, not leadership positions and titles.”

South African President Thabo Mbeki, the chief mediator, said an agreement can still be reached soon despite the failure to get a deal at the marathon negotiations.

”We are indeed convinced that it is possible to conclude these negotiations quite quickly,” Mbeki, the chief mediator in the negotiations, told reporters in the Angolan capital, Luanda.

Mbeki appealed for patience, saying the crucial issue of leadership positions was still under discussion.

”They are working on a truly inclusive government,” he said.

Earlier, Arthur Mutambara, leader of the smaller MDC faction, appealed to Tsvangirai to ”put national interest before self-interest”.

”We are at a crossroads in our country,” Mutambara told a news conference. ”The leaders of our political parties must rise up to the challenge to provide leadership.”

State media signalled that Mugabe would go ahead and form a government, with or without Tsvangirai.

The Herald newspaper, an official government mouthpiece that usually gets information from close Mugabe confidants, accused Tsvangirai of raising objections on Tuesday on the orders of a ”Western embassy”. The government often accuses Tsvangirai of being a stooge of Britain and the United States.

Without identifying the source of its information, the Herald said that President Mugabe would go ahead and form the next government and Parliament would soon sit.

Meanwhile, Tsvangirai on Wednesday called for the immediate resumption of aid programmes in the country following a government suspension on charity work.

”Our people continue to face a profound humanitarian crisis,” Tsvangirai said in a statement.

”Without further delay, we are demanding that NGOs be allowed to resume humanitarian assistance — distributing food, medicines and life-saving assistance. This destructive policy of banning humanitarian assistance can be reversed with one letter.”

Zimbabwe’s government suspended aid work ahead of the June 27 presidential run-off election after accusing some charity organisations of siding with the opposition. — Reuters, AFP, Sapa-AP

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