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South African Leader Blames Zimbabwe Government For Stalled Talks


The leader of South Africa's ruling party says Zimbabwe's government is holding up negotiations on a power-sharing agreement with the opposition. African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma is calling on other African countries to increase pressure on both sides to implement the deal. VOA's Kent Klein reports from Washington.

Zuma is urging Zimbabwean politicians to try harder to break the impasse in talks on sharing power.

Zimbabwe's opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, refused Monday to attend a regional summit on the Zimbabwe crisis in Swaziland, complaining that the government had refused to renew his passport.

In a speech in Washington Tuesday, Zuma said Zimbabwe's government is hindering the talks. "Now you cannot have this kind of a situation when you are dealing with such an important matter. One of the very key figures cannot attend because he does not have a passport. I think that sounds weird," he said.

A spokesman for Tsvangirai's party, the Movement for Democratic Change, said Tuesday the MDC might boycott another regional summit geared toward saving the power-sharing agreement, set for next Monday in Harare.

In Washington, Zuma said the accord can be implemented if the two sides want to do so. "If we have a package that has been agreed upon, hailed by the world, why should we have difficulty implementing it? After all, this is not a permanent arrangement. We are talking about an interim arrangement. Why should it be so difficult?," he said.

Zuma is expected to be elected South African president next year.

He met with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice earlier Tuesday, and they agreed on the need to put more pressure on both sides in Zimbabwe to finalize the power-sharing agreement.

Morgan Tsvangirai and Robert Mugabe reached an accord on a coalition government last month. But talks on implementing the agreement have broken down over which party will control major government ministries.

In his speech in Washington, the ANC's Jacob Zuma downplayed plans by former South African defense minister Mosiuoa Lekota to break away from the African National Congress and start a new party. Zuma called it the "essence of democracy," and said "Everything is fine in South Africa."

Zuma defended the AIDS policy of South African President Thabo Mbeki, saying it has been recognized by the World Health Organization as "one of the best." He said there is a difference between Mbeki's opinions about AIDS and the official government policy.

And in the likely event that Jacob Zuma is elected president in 2009, he said he will accept a two-term limit, which he called "an established fact in South Africa."