U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice discussed the situation in Zimbabwe Tuesday with Jacob Zuma, leader of South Africa's ruling African National Congress party, the ANC. Zuma says he and Rice agreed on the need to press both sides in Zimbabwe power-sharing talks to finalize an agreement. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.
The Bush administration has been critical of the South African leadership for failing to use all of its leverage to press Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe on reforms.
But emerging from his meeting with Secretary Rice, ANC leader Zuma,who is considered likely to become South Africa's next president in 2009, said he and Rice share the same view on the need for an early deal on Zimbabwe power-sharing.
President Mugabe and Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai reached a basic accord on a coalition government last month.
But talks on implementing the deal have stalled over the division of cabinet seats, including Mr. Mugabe's insistence on continued control of the country's security forces and foreign affairs.
Zuma said he and Rice agreed that the parties need to complete a deal for the sake of the Zimbabwean people. Although the United States broached the idea of new sanctions against Mr. Mugabe and his close associates, the ANC leader said Rice told him that existing sanctions should remain until there is an agreement brokered by the Southern African Development Community, or SADC.
"The Secretary just said the current sanctions will be maintained until there is a resolution of the problem. That's a point she made. And, of course, SADC is dealing with the matter. They're actually concretely and practically dealing with the situation. As you know, they met in Swaziland, in Mabane," said Zuma. "I think we support them as they endeavor to insure that that is concluded. That's what we can do."
Zuma said the ANC is engaging both Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party and Mr. Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change in pursuit of an agreement and that he makes personal interventions with Zimbabwean politicians when he can.
At the same time, he dismissed as speculation published reports that, if he becomes president, he would take a harder line with Mr. Mugabe than former South African President Thabo Mbeki, who leads Zimbabwe mediation efforts.
Zuma similarly described as speculative the notion of a possible split in ANC ranks before next year's general elections, amid reports that former Defense Minister Mosiuoa Lekota might launch a breakaway faction.
The ANC chief said the political situation in South Africa was an issue in his discussion with Secretary Rice, along with the global economic crisis.