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South Africa's Mbeki Readies Report To Region On Zimbabwe Talks

South African President Thabo Mbeki is expected to inform other regional leaders at the Southern African Development Community summit getting under way tomorrow in Lusaka, Zambia, that progress has been made towards a Zimbabwe crisis solution.

An extraordinary SADC summit in March named Mr. Mbeki to mediate talks between Zimbabwe's ruling party and its political opposition on resolving the country's long political crisis which has brought in its wake a deepening economic crisis.

A supposedly confidential report leaked to news outlets ahead of the summit said Mr. Mbeki would tell SADC leaders that President Robert Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party and the Movement for Democratic Change have moved towards an agreement. But there were questions about the authenticity and veracity of the report.

Sources said Mr Mbeki is pushing both sides to agree on changes to the Zimbabwean constitution to be made ahead of elections looming in early 2008. The sources said the two MDC factions represented in the talks want more input into a constitutional amendment law tabled recently in parliament recently by the government.

President Mugabe has repeatedly rejected calls for a new constitution.

Sources in Pretoria said Mr. Mbeki met delegates from both sides between last Friday and Monday to try to hammer out an agreement ahead of the summit, giving the two sides copies of an economic report by SADC Executive Secretary Tomaz Salomao.

But sources within the Zimbabwean opposition said nothing substantive came out of the last-minute discussions.

South African political analyst Hermann Hanekom told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that he doubted the authenticity of the leaked document that said an agreement was close, suspecting a forgery by Zimbabwean intelligence.

Meanwhile, representatives of the MDC faction headed by Morgan Tsvangirai were in Lusaka lobbying and seeking support for their positions ahead of the summit.

The two-person advance party met Thursday with Tilenje Kaunda, brother of former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda and president of the United National Independence Party, formerly Zambia’s ruling party.

The two MDC envoys have also met with civic activists, church leaders and students, whose support is desirable because Zambia is assuming the SADC chair.

South African-based MDC regional officer Nqobizitha Mlilo told reporter Patience Rusere that most Zambian organizations have a good understanding of the turmoil in Zimbabwe and that some have agreed to step up pressure on Harare.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...