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South Africa's Mbeki Meets Zimbabwe's Political Leaders


South African President Thabo Mbeki is visiting Zimbabwe to meet with the leaders of Zimbabwe's political parties to try and restart the stalled talks aimed at ending the crisis that has paralyzed the country since the flawed presidential election earlier this year. VOA's Delia Robertson reports from our southern Africa bureau in Johannesburg.

The South African government says President Thabo Mbeki will meet with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and the leaders of Zimbabwe's opposition parties. Foreign Affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa told South African radio the South African leader is continuing with his mandate from the Southern Africa Development Community.

"In this regard President Mbeki will meet with leaders of Zimbabwean negotiating parties," said Ronnie Mamoepa. "The president is supported on this mission by members of his facilitation team."

Mr. Mbeki's visit follows a threat last week by Mr. Mugabe to form a cabinet unless opposition Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai signed a power-sharing agreement.

Talks to bring about such an agreement have been stalled since early last month over how executive authority would be divided in a unity government.

Speaking at a weekend rally Tsvangirai, whose party holds in thin majority in parliament, said he would rather have no deal than a bad deal. He said that if he failed to win sufficient power in talks, he would demand fresh elections supervised by international observers.

This demand is unlikely to win support from the mediator or from other southern Africa leaders. Sources close to the talks tell VOA they do not believe it is possible to hold legitimate elections in the current political climate. Independent human-rights organizations say more than 100 opposition supporters have been killed, thousands injured and tens of thousands displaced in violence since the March election.

At the same rally the MDC's number two, Tendai Biti, hinted that his party would be willing to settle for the power-sharing agreement if the current constitution is changed. Biti told supporters the powers accorded to the president in the current constitution in effect result in what he called an imperial presidency. He implied talks would make progress if this were changed.

Both factions of the MDC have welcomed Mr. Mbeki's visit.

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