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Tsvangirai Says He Will Meet Mugabe Soon to Discuss Zimbabwe Crisis

Zimbabwe's Prime Minister-designate Morgan Tsvangirai says he is to meet with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe next week to discuss a much-delayed power-sharing agreement. The announcement came as he prepared to return home after a two-month absence.

Morgan Tsvangirai says he is to meet some time next week with President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party in an effort to revive the stalled efforts to form a unity government and address the Zimbabwe crisis.

The long-time opposition leader told reporters in Johannesburg that South African President Kgalema Motlanthe was arranging the meeting as chairman of the Southern African Development Community, which is mediating the Zimbabwe crisis.

"I still believe that a political agreement offers the best means of preventing Zimbabwe from becoming a failed state," said Motlanthe. "I am committed to forming a new, inclusive government in Zimbabwe, and all I lack is a willing partner on the part of ZANU-PF."

Tsvangirai reiterated that, before his Movement for Democratic Change would join in a unity government, laws must be passed regarding the management of the security forces.

He said an equitable allocation of Cabinet ministries and provincial governorships must be made, and the crackdown on MDC supporters and civic groups must stop.

Finally, Tsvangirai said, the roles and powers of the president and prime minister must be defined by law.

"Now is the time for Mr. Mugabe to show whether or not he is committed to this agreement by meeting with me and resolving these issues. The MDC has made many painful compromises during this negotiation process," he said. "However, we will not and cannot accept responsibility without authority, as we have the mandate from the people to deliver a new Zimbabwe."

Mr. Mugabe, Tsvangirai and the head of a smaller opposition group, Arthur Mutambara, signed an agreement four months ago creating a unity government, with Mr. Mugabe as president and Tsvangirai as prime minister. But the accord has not been implemented.

The purpose was meant to end a political crisis that erupted after elections in which Tsvangirai's MDC won a majority of the seats in parliament, but no candidate won an absolute majority in the presidential election.

Mr. Mugabe won the run-off presidential election after Tsvangirai withdrew, citing a campaign of voter intimidation by ZANU-PF supporters.

Human rights groups say abductions and detentions of MDC supporters continue and have intensified in recent months. The government has accused some MDC activists of recruiting people for military training in order to overthrow the Mugabe government.

Tsvangirai vehemently denied the charge, saying his party is for democratic change.

"It is against our values to engage in any unorthodox means to overthrow any government. We deny categorically that we are training people in Botswana, let alone even in the bush anywhere in Africa," he said. "It is a figment of ZANU-PF's imagination."

He called on the government to release all political detainees. He concluded, saying innocent people are being victimized by their own government and humanitarian efforts will be needed for the foreseeable future in order to ease their suffering.