Zim deal expected Wednesday

September 10, 2008 12:00 am

, HARARE, September 10 – Zimbabwe political rivals meeting in Harare could sign a power-sharing deal Wednesday, veteran President Robert Mugabe said following negotiations.

"We are finishing tomorrow, hopefully. We are still going to talk, there are one or two areas of disagreement," Mugabe said late Tuesday as he left the venue for the talks.

A government source had earlier said that there was "room for optimism that this deal would be signed tomorrow and that President Robert Mugabe will form a government anytime from tomorrow or this week."

A southern African security summit due to begin Wednesday was deferred by a day amid speculation of a deal being signed.

The politics and security committee of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) was supposed to meet in the Swazi capital Mbabane but the summit was postponed, South African foreign ministry spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa said in a statement.

"We have been advised that the SADC Troika Summit of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-ordination scheduled for Wednesday in Mbabane, Swaziland, has been postponed," until a day later, Mamoepa said.

South African President Thabo Mbeki, appointed by the SADC to mediate an end to Zimbabwe’s ruinous political crisis, was due to brief the summit on "the ongoing SADC mandated facilitation work in Zimbabwe," Mamoepa said.

Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai has faced heavy pressure to sign a deal throughout different stages of talks, and earlier in the day, all three rival parties signalled that no deal was anticipated.

However, Tsvangirai later acknowledged that there had been some positive development in the negotiations as he left the talks venue.

"This is work in progress and we are hoping that tomorrow we will be able to work on the outstanding issues," said Tsvangirai, whose party holds the largest number of seats in parliament after defeating Mugabe in a March vote.

Earlier on Tuesday, a source close to the talks told AFP that Tsvangirai had held separate "positive" talks in the morning with Mbeki who flew to Harare on Monday to revive the talks.

His counterpart from the breakaway MDC faction Arthur Mutambara, also expressed optimism that a deal is in sight.

"We have made tremendous progress, there are few remaining issues to be resolved and hopefully tomorrow we will bring finality and closure to this important process of dialogue," said Mutambara.

The stalled power-sharing talks involving the ruling ZANU-PF, Tsvangirai’s MDC and Mutambara’s splinter faction resumed on Monday after being adjourned for more than two weeks.

The talks had been deadlocked on the allocation of executive power between Mugabe and Tsvangirai.

Mugabe has been President of Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980, but agreed to talks after winning a June 27 run-off vote unopposed amid condemnation from the international community.

While the political crisis has dragged on, Zimbabwe’s economy has continued its freefall with the world’s highest inflation rate, 11.2 million percent in June, according to official figures, and major food shortages.

Mbeki had been criticised for embarking on silent diplomacy throughout the process, but a deal could also allow Mbeki, due to leave office next year, an opportunity to bask in the glory of ending the longstanding Zimbabwean political mess.

Power-sharing discussions began after the bitter political foes signed a memorandum of understanding on July 21 in Harare.



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