Zimbabwe leaders to resume difficult talks on powersharing

August 12th, 2008 - 8:18 pm ICT by IANS  

Harare/Johannesburg, Aug 12 (DPA) Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai were due to resume talks Tuesday on a powersharing deal after the difficult negotiations were adjourned for a second time Monday without any sign of agreement. The talks were due to resume after Defence Forces’ Day celebrations in Harare where Mugabe was expected to address.

On leaving a second session of talks mediated by South African President Thabo Mbeki in a city-centre hotel Monday night, Mugabe said little progress had been made but expressed confidence that the talks would be wrapped up Tuesday.

But sources in Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said the two leaders were still poles apart on how to share power.

Zimbabweans are hoping a negotiated settlement will end the country’s nearly decade-long political and economic crisis.

Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, leader of a breakaway faction of Tsvangirai’s MDC, held a first 14-hour session of talks Sunday.

Sources from both Zanu-PF and the MDC say Tsvangirai is poised to become prime minister, but it is still not clear how much power Mugabe is prepared to devolve to him.

Mbeki, the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) mediator in Zimbabwe, visited Harare Saturday amid hopes and speculations that he could clinch a deal before South Africa takes over the SADC chair at a weekend summit.

Analysts say the dire state of the Zimbabwean economy, as characterized by inflation of over two million percent and critical food shortages, are what ultimately convinced Zimbabwe’s leader of 28 years to come to the negotiating table.

A number of Western countries have promised increased aid and investment if Tsvangirai and the MDC are given a leadership role in government.

Mugabe has found himself increasingly isolated after several African countries and the West refused to recognize his victory in June presidential elections.

Mugabe contested the run-off election alone, after Tsvangirai, who won the first round of the election in March, withdrew over a campaign of state-backed attacks on his supporters that has killed more than 120 people.

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