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Zimbabwe's Rival Parties Take Power-Sharing Dispute to Southern African Summit


Zimbabwe's rival political parties are taking their dispute to Swaziland in hopes of forging a deal on a new government. The parties signed a power-sharing agreement more than a month ago, but have been unable to agree on which party should occupy several key ministries. VOA's Scott Bobb reports from our Southern Africa Bureau in Johannesburg.

Leaders of the Southern African Development Community called a special meeting of its political commission for Monday after a week of intense negotiations between Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and two opposition parties failed to agree on a new cabinet.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai told reporters after the talks broke up late Friday that negotiations were stalemated.

"We have failed to agree on the first key issue, which is the allocation of key ministerial portfolios and therefore a deadlock has been declared," he said.

Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF and two opposition parties signed a power-sharing agreement last month in which the opposition would receive 16 cabinet portfolios and ZANU-PF would received 15. Sources say the two sides could not agree on who would control key ministries such as Finance, Defense and the Interior.

But former South African President Thabo Mbeki, who has been mediating the crisis as mandated by SADC, remained upbeat.

"The negotiations are continuing. And on Monday we will all of us be meeting with the troika of the SADC organ on politics in Mbabane, in Swaziland, because they are meeting and they want to hear a report about how far the negotiations have gone," said Mr. Mbeki.

He said leaders of the three members of the Community's special committee on politics, Angola, Mozambique and Swaziland, would discuss how to proceed.

SADC said in a statement that the leaders would also discuss the renewed fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the political stalemate in Lesotho.

Tsvangiari, who earlier said the matter should be referred to the African Union or the United Nations, told a rally Sunday that he hoped the issue would be finalized Monday.

But the chief negotiator for ZANU-PF was quoted by the government-owned Sunday Herald newspapers as saying that the SADC leaders could offer guidance, but could not impose a solution.

Despite the gloomy mood, Mr. Mugabe indicated the talks would continue.

"Enough is enough? No, we can never say enough is enough about this problem that affects us. No, it would be a poor attitude," he said.

Southern African leaders have been trying to mediate the Zimbabwean crisis since controversial elections in March gave the opposition a majority of seats in parliament for the first time since independence.

But Mr. Mugabe was re-elected unopposed after Mr. Tsvangirai pulled out of the presidential run-off election citing a campaign of intimidation in which more than 100 of his supporters were killed.

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