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Zimbabwe Negotiations Falter


As face-to-face talks between Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF and Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change continue in their second day, hopes for a quick clean political settlement are receding. Peta Thornycroft reports for VOA from Harare the South African-mediated talks are bogged down over fundamental issues surrounding the division of powers for Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Tsvangirai in an inclusive government.

Technical teams began work on the outstanding issues at the negotiating table, while President Robert Mugabe went to the annual Hero's Day commemoration at the national shrine.

The talks, that began Sunday, broke off after many hours of negotiations about who would chair the cabinet, with Mr. Tsvangirai insisting that he should, because he won the first peaceful poll in March. Mr. Mugabe and his team insist that as president of an inclusive government, that power should remain with Mr. Mugabe.

Well-placed sources say they are no longer optimistic that there will be an easy breakthrough. There are even suggestions from those close to the talks that they may not be concluded.

Later this week, Mr. Mugabe plans to attend a summit of the Southern African Development Community in South Africa.

Without a deal, South African President Thabo Mbeki would not be able to tell SADC, which appointed him as mediator, that he has achieved a settlement of Zimbabwe's political crisis.

But other sources say both parties understand that without a deal the present economic chaos in Zimbabwe would quickly deteriorate to social catastrophe as there is very little food and no foreign currency to import it.

Zimbabwe needs western aid to stabilize its currency and reduce inflation of more than two million percent, and to rebuild its shattered industrial and agricultural infrastructure.

In the streets of Harare, people said they were depressed that a deal had not been reached. One street vendor blamed Mr. Mugabe, saying he should have no place in a future administration and suggested he should go to jail.

During his Hero's Day address, Mr. Mugabe spoke about violence that wracked Zimbabwe between the March 29 elections and the presidential run off on June 27. He said if people try to take away Zimbabwe's sovereignty, then people can only react.

He said that God gives people the power to protect themselves, even if that means violence.

Many analysts believe that Mr. Mugabe was referring to the Movement for Democratic Change. He has long accused the party of being a stooge of the West.

Mr. Tsvangirai won the most votes in the March presidential election and his party deprived ZANU-PF of its 28-year control of parliament.

More than 120 people were killed before the run-off presidential elections. According to the United Nations most of the perpetrators of the violence were loyal to ZANU-PF.

Mr. Tsvangirai withdrew from the presidential run off because of violence against his supporters. More than a dozen MDC legislators remain in hiding in neighboring countries or living away from their homes, fearing arrest.

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