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Zimbabwean Leaders Fail to Agree on Cabinet


The first meeting between the three leaders who signed Zimbabwe's power-sharing agreement ended in a stalemate Thursday. The three failed to agree on the composition of a Cabinet for the new government. Tendai Maphosa in Harare has this report for VOA.

President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister-designate Morgan Tsvangirai and deputy Prime Minister-designate Arthur Mutambara met for the first time after the signing of the power-sharing deal earlier this week. It was hoped they would announce the members of the 31-member Cabinet at the end of their meeting but that did not happen.

Eddie Cross, policy coodinator general of the main Movement for Democratic Change faction led by Morgan Tsvangirai says agreement could not be reached because the ruling ZANU-PF is insisting on retaining control of all key ministries including defense and finance.

"They've got nobody who can really put the ministry of finance back together again, they've got nobody who is acceptable to the international community, anybody they that they might put up for the ministry of finance is still subject to international sanctions against the individuals so we are saying the ministry of finance has to come to the MDC and we don't think that's really negotiable," Cross said. "They want defense and we are saying if you take defense we want home affairs, it's only fair; they still want to hold on to home affairs, hold on to the police and we are saying absolutely not."

Cross added that the ministry of local government is also a bone of contention. According to him, 80 percent of the councils in Zimbabwe are run by the MDC so the party must control the ministry.

He said the matter has now been referred to the three party's mediation teams to try to reach a compromise. The teams are slated to meet Saturday. But even if the teams reach an agreement, Cross said, Zimbabweans will have to wait for Mr. Mugabe's return from New York where he is going to attend the U.N. General Assembly until a government can be formed. Cross, however, dismissed media reports describing the lack of an agreement as a deadlock.

"It's not a deadlock as such; it's simply procrastination on behalf of ZANU-PF refusing to get to grips with the fundamentals," he said. "We'll sort this out and have a government hopefully by next Friday."

The signing of the agreement follows seven weeks of talks that followed the June 27 run-off of the presidential election in which Mr. Mugabe was the sole candidate. Mr. Tsvangirai who had outpolled Mr. Mugabe in the first round election but failed to get the necessary majority to avoid a run-off, pulled out of the run-off citing violence against his supporters.

Analysts see the composition of the government as key to unlocking the assistance the international community has promised Zimbabwe to get its economy, once one of the strongest in the sub-Saharan region, working again.

More than 80 percent of the workforce is unemployed, inflation is the highest in the world and basics foodstuffs, fuel and power are in short supply.

The international community has cautiously welcomed the power-sharing agreement but stopped short of making any commitments to help pending the formation of the new government. They also want to see a tangible shift of power from Mr. Mugabe, Zimbabwe's ruler of 28 years, to Mr. Tsvangirai.

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