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Zimbabwe Rivals Reported Near Power-Sharing Accord

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai are to begin face-to-face negotiations Thursday in what could be the closing phase of power-sharing talks.

Sources in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, and South Africa's capital, Pretoria, tell VOA Studio 7 Zimbabwe that South African President Thabo Mbeki will go to Harare to facilitate the dialogue.

Sources close to talks still underway in Pretoria say the sides must decide whether Tsvangirai will hold executive powers as prime minister in a proposed government of national unity. They say another issue is who will appoint the governors of Zimbabwe's 10 provinces.

A South African newspaper reported Tuesday that the sides are close to a power-sharing deal. The Starsaid President Mugabe would remain in office but assume a ceremonial role.

United Nations special envoy Haile Menkerios headed back to South Africa Tuesday to discuss the mediation process. He also will visit Zimbabwe before returning to New York at the end of the week.

The talks in South Africa began two weeks ago after Mr. Mugabe was re-elected in a poll that the opposition and many international observers dismissed as a sham.

Movement for Democratic Change leader Tsvangirai pulled out just days before the June 29 run-off, citing what he said was a campaign of state-sponsored violence against his supporters.

The ruling ZANU-PF party has said any agreement must recognize Mr. Mugabe's re-election.

The sides are under intense international pressure to reach an agreement so Zimbabwe can start recovering from its prolonged political and economic crisis.

The country suffers from 80 percent unemployment and an inflation rate officially pegged at 2.2 million percent.

President Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since the country won independence from Britain in 1980.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.