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Talks on Zimbabwe Crisis May Be Making Progress  

  • Delia Robertson

Talks in Harare between Zimbabwe's political leaders aimed at arresting the crisis that has paralyzed the country since the widely discredited presidential election earlier this year are continuing. VOA's Delia Robertson reports from our southern Africa bureau in Johannesburg there are indications that the talks - mediated by South African President Thabo Mbeki - have made progress.

Both President Robert Mugabe and Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai expressed satisfaction with the progress of talks late Wednesday. Speaking briefly to the media, Mr. Tsvangirai said not much remains to be done.

"But I must say that very little work is left," he said.

Mr. Tsvangirai's comments appear to indicate the proposed agreement has moved somewhat toward his demands, which hinge on how much power he will have in a transitional government of national unity and how much is retained by Mr. Mugabe.

His comments may also indicate that he has accepted that he has reached the limits of how far he can push African leaders to support him in his demands. They want transitional arrangements to get underway so preparations can begin for legitimate elections - preferably within 30 months.

Even though Mr. Mugabe had earlier said he hoped for an agreement Thursday, he later appeared anxious to show his supporters he is standing firm on his positions. Before heading back to the talks, he told a tribal leaders' conference in the second city Bulawayo there has been no movement, saying the talks have not gone anywhere.

When the talks began in July, Mr. Mbeki tried to impose a two-week deadline; and while at first it appeared as if progress was rapid - serious sticking points emerged with Mr. Tsvangirai seeking to enlist support from African leaders and the United Nations to advance his case.

The mediation began after the discredited presidential run-off election in late June, which followed general elections in March. The MDC won a majority in parliament and Mr. Tsvangirai won the most votes in the presidential poll. But he failed to achieve the required 50 percent majority needed to avoid a runoff.

He withdrew from the presidential runoff when scores of his supporters were killed in violence that independent human-rights organizations said was perpetrated by Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF and members of Zimbabwe security forces.

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