Zimbabwe mediation talks paused

August 13, 2008 12:00 am

, HARARE, August 13 – South African President Thabo Mbeki said Wednesday talks over Zimbabwe’s crisis had paused to allow opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai "time to consider", while denying claims of a deal that excludes him.

After three days spent mediating power-sharing negotiations to end Zimbabwe’s political crisis, Mbeki said he remained "confident" that all three parties in the talks would find a resolution.

The talks have included Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, opposition Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai and the head of a smaller MDC faction, Arthur Mutambara.

"We have dealt with all the elements on which President Mugabe and Mutambara agree, but there is disagreement on one element over which Morgan Tsvangirai had asked for time to reflect," said Mbeki.

"We have adjourned to give Morgan Tsvangirai more time to consider these matters.

"I’m quite confident they will resolve all their outstanding matters which would result in this inclusive government, and in the second instance then acting together," Mbeki told reporters.

Mbeki on Wednesday flew out of Zimbabwe, an AFP reporter stated.

"Mbeki is going to give a report to SADC chair of defence and security president Jose (Eduardo) Dos Santos, after that we are going back home," said Mbeki’s spokesperson, Mukoni Ratshitanga.

It was not immediately clear when the parties would meet again to resume talks.

Mbeki’s comments came shortly after a ruling party official said Mugabe and Mutambara’s faction had reached a deal that would lead to a new government, but which did not include Tsvangirai.

Asked about whether a deal was signed, Mbeki said, "I wouldn’t know about it. We are facilitating discussions among three parties."

Welshman Ncube, secretary general for Mutambara’s faction, made similar comments, saying "no deal has been signed by anyone. Dialogue is still continuing."

Tsvangirai left the discussions on Tuesday evening without commenting, and officials from his party could not immediately be reached.

The opposition leader finished ahead of Mugabe in the March first round of the presidential election but boycotted the run-off in June, saying dozens of his supporters had been killed and thousands injured.

Power-sharing talks began after the rivals signed a deal on July 21 laying the framework for negotiations, leading to more than two weeks of discussions in South Africa between representatives of the three sides.

Mbeki arrived in Zimbabwe over the weekend after both his government and Mugabe indicated progress in the talks, though the MDC had said little publicly about the negotiations in recent days.

Pressure had been building for the political rivals to resolve the crisis, with a summit of regional leaders set to take place in South Africa this weekend.

Mbeki is expected to brief regional leaders on the state of the Zimbabwe talks at the summit, and he said he would travel to Angola on Wednesday to update President Jose Eduardo dos Santos on the negotiations.

Dos Santos is chair of a security arm of the Southern African Development Community regional bloc.

Zimbabwe’s crisis intensified after Mugabe’s re-election in the June 27 presidential run-off, which was widely condemned as a sham.

On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch called on southern African leaders to put pressure on Mugabe to end political violence in order to resolve the country’s crisis.

Tsvangirai believes his first-round total gives him the right to the lion’s share of power. The ruling ZANU-PF party has insisted Mugabe must be recognised as president in any deal, as he won the June vote.

Negotiations have reportedly included proposals for Mugabe, who has ruled since independence from Britain in 1980, to take on a more ceremonial role in exchange for amnesty from prosecution, with Tsvangirai being made executive prime minister.



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