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Inter-Party Talks Deadlock Threatens Zimbabwe Unity Government

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Talks between Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to resolve the political deadlock in the country's unity government have failed and Movement for Democratic Change is boycotting parliament for the second week in a row.

The guarantors and facilitator of the political agreement that led to Zimbabwe's inclusive government in February say they are still hopeful the deadlock between Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai can be resolved.

Former South African president Thabo Mbeki, who facilitated the unity agreement, is still engaged with Zimbabwe, according to his spokesman Mukoni Ratshitanga. He said Mr. Mbeki is in contact and "seized " with the situation.

AU Chairman Jean Ping says he he believes the deadlock is solvable. He says the African Union, which along with the Southern Africa Development Community guaranteed the political agreement, is "preoccupied" with Zimbabwe.

The SADC troika on politics, defense and security is expected Thursday in Harare to try to break the most recent roadblock, which began October 16 when Mr. Tsvangirai said his Movement for Democratic Change had stopped formal contact with Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF, including a boycott of weekly Cabinet meetings.

The MDC says it is protesting ongoing breaches and violations of the political agreement.

The MDC says it has a long list of outstanding issues presented to Mr. Mugabe during four hours of talks Monday. The MDC says selective arrests and prosecutions, failure to swear in MDC provincial governors, and appointments of senior civil servants loyal to ZANU-PF are among some of the issues the MDC says need resolution.

MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said the party has received reports of politically motivated attacks against its members and he said a senior party official had been beaten up Tuesday by thugs outside the MDC headquarters in Harare.

He said the MDC is hoping the SADC troika would end the impasse between his party and ZANU-PF.

Ephraim Masawi, a spokesman for ZANU-PF has denied the party has fallen foul of the political agreement. One of Mr. Mugabe's closest confidantes, Didymus Mutasa, has accused Mr. Tsvangirai's MDC of being 'cry babies." He also said Mr. Mugabe is in power and had no intention of reducing his control.

The unity government agreement gave most of the social services ministries to the MDC and the security ministries, as well as justice, to ZANU-PF.

The third signatory to last year's political agreement, Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, said Tuesday there will be further discussions between the three parties looking for a solution to genuine grievances from Mr. Tsvangirai's party and concerns raised by ZANU-PF. He said answers to problems had to be found and a time line established for resolving them.

Mr. Tsvangirai received the most votes in the first round of the presidential election last year but pulled out of the second round, citing violence against his supporters. The MDC narrowly beat ZANU-PF in elections for the legislature and also won control of all urban areas in local government elections.