President Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, the founding president
of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change have signed an
agreement on the framework for formal talks. VOA's Delia Robertson
reports from our southern Africa bureau in Johannesburg.
was signed in the presence of the mediator, South African President
Thabo Mbeki, and was sealed with a handshake between President Robert
Mugabe and MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai. It is the first time the
two have met in 10 years.
Mr. Mbeki said that the agreement commits the parties to an intense program to finalize negotiations as soon as possible.
Mbeki said all the parties recognize the urgency of the issues they
will negotiate and are committed to completing the process as soon as
An African diplomat close to the process earlier told
VOA the MDC was anxious to set deadlines for conclusion of negotiations
within two weeks; and also time frames for implementation of any
agreements reached in the talks.
During talks last year
between the parties, adoption of a new constitution was agreed to, but
no time frames were set. Mr. Mugabe reneged on an agreement that the
constitution would be implemented in time for elections held earlier
After signing the agreement, Mr. Mugabe said that
he and the opposition leaders have agreed to various amendments to the
The talks will focus on the formation of a government of national unity and the cessation of violence.
is expected that reaching agreement on a unity government will be very
difficult. Mr. Mugabe has made it clear he wants to head that
government and wants the opposition to recognize him as the legitimate
president of the country.
Mr. Tsvangirai holds that to be
untrue, given the findings of all observer groups in last month's
widely discredited presidential runoff election that it was not free,
not fair and failed to reflect the will of the Zimbabwean people.
Mugabe was the only candidate in that runoff after Mr. Tsvangirai
withdrew because of widespread violence targeting his supporters and
officials of his party.
It is widely expected the Zimbabwe talks will get under way within days.