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Zimbabwe State Press: New Government by February

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe is pressing ahead with plans to form a new government next month with the consent of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), according the state-controlled Herald newspaper.

SADC mediated a September political agreement between his ZANU- PF and Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Efforts to implement the agreement have been unsuccessful.

According to the Herald, a new government would likely be in place by the end of February. The newspaper speculates the factions led by Mr. Tsvangirai and Mr. Mugabe will by then have joined forces in parliament to pass a constitutional amendment that needs a two-thirds majority to become law.

The Herald says one of the ZANU-PF negotiators and a member of the SADC facilitation team met Saturday in the South African border town, Musina.

In addition, Mr. Mugabe has reportedly met with Arthur Mutambara, the leader of the smaller MDC faction, who is a signatory to the September political agreement.

Mutambara has previously said he would not go into a government without Mr. Tsvangirai, who has been in exile in Botswana for the past two months.

Mr. Tsvangirai says there is a continuing dispute with ZANU-PF over the allocation of ministries. According to the Herald, he has written to Mr. Mugabe explaining why he is not yet prepared to return to take up his post of prime minister.

Presidential spokesman George Charamba said President Mugabe is determined to have a government in place and is keeping the Southern African Development Community appraised of the situation.

Mr. Tsvangirai said recently that he has no plans to become prime minister in a unity government until political disagreements are settled.