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Tsvangirai leads cabinet boycott

HARARE, Oct 27 – Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and ministers drawn from his MDC party Tuesday boycotted a cabinet meeting led by President Robert Mugabe for the second time in as many weeks.

"We did not attend a cabinet meeting again today until the outstanding issues have been addressed," Nelson Chamisa, spokesman for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), who is also a cabinet minister, told AFP.

"Friction has no winners, conflict has no harmony," he added.

Chamisa later told a press conference in the capital that the unity government could not go on if unresolved matters threatening the eight-month partnership were not settled.

"It is not possible to continue with this inclusive government without addressing outstanding issues," he said, accusing hardliners in Mugabe’s ZANU-PF of willing the power-sharing pact to unravel.

"There are people in ZANU-PF (Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front) who are determined to see the collapse of the inclusive government," he said.

Following a tour by Tsvangirai last week to appeal for regional intervention, a Mozambican-chaired Southern African Development Community (SADC) team is heading to Harare to discuss the impasse.

"We are waiting for the troika which is arriving on Thursday. Hopefully there will be a breakthrough to this impasse, a breakthrough to this deadlock," said Chamisa.

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The second boycott by Tsvangirai came after his talks with Mugabe on Monday failed to break a stalemate. The MDC leader announced he was shelving ties with Mugabe’s camp on October 16 until all sticking points were ironed out.

While the MDC ministers again snubbed the cabinet meeting, government sources said Mugabe and his ministers met Tuesday morning with a smaller faction of the MDC led by Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara.

Under the unity government accord, ZANU-PF has 15 cabinet ministers, Tsvangirai’s MDC has 13 while Mutambara’s smaller faction has three.

The two main camps were said to be "poles apart" after Monday’s talks which were the first since Tsvangirai suspended relations, sparking a crisis in the new government tasked with pulling Zimbabwe out of years of crisis.

The MDC leader has said he will only resume cooperation once all outstanding issues are resolved, including wrangles over key posts and a crackdown on his supporters.

Tsvangirai and Mugabe agreed to form a unity government in February after disputed polls saw the 85-year-old veteran president handed victory in a one-man run-off election last June.

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