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S. African Leaders Call on Zimbabwean Parties to Form Unity Government; Set Deadline


Southern Africa leaders have called on the parties to Zimbabwe's power-sharing agreement to form a unity government in two-and-a-half weeks. But the main opposition party says it has reservations and will not decide until Friday whether it will join.

Leaders of the 15-member Southern African Development Community ended an all-night summit, Tuesday, announcing that an all-inclusive government will be formed in Zimbabwe by February 13.

Mood of talks was serious, sense of urgency

The chairman of SADC, South Africa's President Kgalema Motlanthe, told reporters the mood at the talks was one of seriousness and a deep sense of urgency.

"Issues were debated with frankness so that at the end when consensus was arrived at, there should be no question that remained unanswered," he said. "Parties expressed their confidence in the process and committed to implement the agreement."

The summit resolved that the Zimbabwean parliament is to pass a constitutional amendment, by next week, legalizing a power-sharing agreement signed last year.

MDC leaders to be sworn-in as prime minister, deputy pm

Leaders of the two factions of the Movement for Democratic Change, Morgan Tsvangirai and Aurthur Mutambara, are to be sworn in as prime minister and deputy prime minister by February 11. Cabinet ministers are to be sworn in two days later completing the formation of the new government.

Under the agreement President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party is to receive 15 ministries while the two MDC parties are to receive a total of 16 posts.

But Mr. Tsvangirai's party quickly issued a statement saying the SADC resolutions fall far short of its expectations.

MDC Spokesman Nelson Chamisa told South African public radio the meeting was a step forward, but said it was too early to celebrate.

"That is a tentative proposal that was given by SADC," he said. "But the ultimate decision will have to be made by the party's national council on Friday."

MDC still has many reservations about power-sharing deal

The MDC earlier said it would only participate in the unity government if five major issues were addressed, including the fair allocation of ministries and senior government posts and the release of supporters who it says have been jailed on trumped-up charges.

The SADC leaders proposed that outstanding issues be addressed by a joint committee that would begin meeting almost immediately.

Mr. Motlanthe acknowledged the MDC had raised its opposition to sharing the ministry of home affairs, which controls the Zimbabwean police. But he said SADC had stuck to its proposal that they share the post, temporarily.

"The summit today also took the same view that that the two parties should co-minister home affairs and that, after six months, there will be a review hopefully informed by experience gained working together in one inclusive government," said Motlanthe. "And, all the parties accepted that position of SADC.

But Chamisa underscored his party's deep disagreement with the SADC proposals.

"Not all those issues have been met, in particular the issue of equity in the allocation of ministries. We still are not agreed in terms of how we should proceed," he said. "There was a judgment from SADC. We have our own position which was not considered."

Nevertheless he expressed some hope that there would be progress on these issues before senior party leaders meet on Friday.

Analysts say SADC appears to have hoped that the deadlines would get the various parties working together on less contentious issues and thereby encourage compromise on the more difficult disputes. There is no mention of what will happen, if the deadlines are not met.

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