South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki is due to meet leaders of Zimbabwe's ruling party and opposition as part of a nine-month effort to mediate an end to the Zimbabwean crisis. The meetings come as parties say the talks have made progress but have still not reached agreement on some major issues. Correspondent Scott Bobb reports from Johannesburg.
A spokesman said President Thabo Mbeki's meetings with representatives of the ruling ZANU-PF party and two factions of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change were to facilitate dialogue between Zimbabwe's political leadership.
Southern African leaders in March asked Mr. Mbeki to facilitate the dialogue in order to bring about free and fair elections with the participation of all parties. Previous elections have been marred by violence, accusations of rigging and opposition boycotts.
Sources close to the negotiations say the talks have made progress as seen by a recent constitutional amendment supported by both sides.
The amendment schedules presidential, parliamentary and local elections for next March, increases the number of parliamentary seats and allows parliament to elect a successor if the presidency becomes vacant.
The sources say progress has also been made on easing harsh laws governing security and the media. However, they say agreement has yet to be reached on what is termed political climate, which includes measures to ease political tensions, facilitate political gatherings and prevent abuses by security forces.
The opposition is also said to be pressing for a postponement of the elections saying there is not enough time to adequately prepare for them.
Mr. Mbeki's meetings are during a stopover on his way to Uganda for the summit of Commonwealth states. Zimbabwe withdrew from the Commonwealth in 2003 after being suspended for authoritarianism and human rights violations.
The head of one faction of the Movement for Democratic Change, Morgan Tsvangirai, told a forum on the margins of the Commonwealth summit Wednesday that although Zimbabwe is no longer a member, the Commonwealth should not abandon his country.
"The international community must make sure that the Zimbabwe situation is always on the international radar," said Tsvangirai.
Tsvangirai said he did not agree with the Zimbabwean government's decision to withdraw from the Commonwealth four years ago.
"We want to be part of the family of nations but we have been denied unilaterally by an individual decision to be part of this family when we know you are part of our family," he said.
He said it is important to ensure that Zimbabwe becomes part of the community of nations once again.