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Zimbabwe State Media: Political Talks Set to Begin Thursday


Zimbabwe's state-run newspaper is reporting that reconciliation talks between the ruling party and the main opposition will now begin Thursday in South Africa.

Wednesday's edition of The Herald quotes Zimbabwe Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa as saying representatives of both President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change are expected in South Africa Wednesday to prepare for the talks.

South African presidential spokesman Mukoni Ratshitanga said preliminary talks have already begun but the main talks would begin in earnest Thursday.

The Herald reports Chinamasa and Minister of Public Services Nicholas Goche will be the official negotiators for the ZANU-PF, while MDC Secretary-General Tendai Biti and Deputy Treasurer Elton Mangoma will be lead negotiators for the opposition.

The main talks, to be mediated by South African President Thabo Mbeki, had been expected to begin Wednesday.

President Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai signed an agreement Monday to start power-sharing negotiations.

The agreements established a two-week deadline for an agreement that would include setting objectives and priorities for a new government, a new constitution, and an implementation mechanism.

The European Union increased pressure on President Mugabe to share power Tuesday by imposing sanctions on 37 more people and four companies linked to his government.

EU spokesman John Clancy welcomed the agreement between Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Tsvangirai as a "positive step." But, Clancy told VOA it is still necessary to maintain pressure on Mr. Mugabe.

The European Union first imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe in 2002, citing human rights abuses and electoral irregularities in the presidential election that year. Mr. Mugabe and more than 100 supporters of his government are on the sanctions list.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.