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Zimbabwean Opposition Warns Convening Parliament Violates Power-Sharing Deal

Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has said that if the government moves forward with plans to convene parliament next week, it would violate a memorandum of understanding between the two sides on power-sharing negotiations. Tsvangirai made the comments in Nairobi, after meeting with Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Derek Kilner has more from Nairobi.

Morgan Tsvangirai told a news conference in Nairobi that he does not expect President Robert Mugabe to convene Zimbabwe's parliament unilaterally, saying that such action would constitute a "repudiation" of the agreement the government signed to guide power-sharing negotiations following disputed presidential elections.

"A violation of the MOU will have to be dealt with by the mediator. If President Mugabe proceeds to convene parliament, appoint a new cabinet it means that he is proceeding to violate the conditions of the MOU which means that he may have abandoned the basis for the talks. But we don't know what his intentions are," he said.

The July 21 memorandum of understanding that governs the negotiations, which are being mediated by South African president Thabo Mbeki, says that parliament should only be reconvened, or a new government formed, with the agreement of the three parties: the government, and the two factions of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, led by Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara.

But Parliament Clerk Austin Zvoma said on Wednesday that President Mugabe would open parliament next Tuesday, after its members are sworn in on Monday.

At Thursday's news conference, Tsvangirai said the talks are making progress but that he and Mr. Mugabe remain deadlocked over how to distribute powers between the positions of President and Prime Minister, which Tsvangirai would likely assume under a power-sharing arrangement.

Tsvangirai claims he won the presidential election on March 29. But the official results gave him less than 50 percent of the vote. Tsvangirai dropped out ahead of the June 27 runoff election, complaining of government attacks on his supporters.

Tsvangirai is seeking to build support from African leaders, including Mr. Odinga, who took the newly-formed position of Prime Minister in a power-sharing government following Kenya's disputed elections in December.

"We are consulting here in Africa, especially Kenya, because we want to benefit from the experience of what has happened in Kenya and what is likely to happen in Zimbabwe, where we have this new experiment in Africa, where when people lose the elections they want to negotiate their way back into government again," he noted.

But if Zimbabwe's government indeed plans to move ahead with reconvening parliament, a Kenyan-style agreement for Zimbabwe could be a long way off.