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SADC Tries to Revive Zimbabwe Talks After Breakdown

Southern African leaders say they will hold a summit next week to discuss the deadlocked talks on Zimbabwe. The talks broke off early Tuesday without agreement.

The Southern African Development Community, SADC, announced the new Zimbabwe summit after negotiations in Harare failed to break the impasse between the ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe and the Movement for Democratic Change of Prime Minister-Designate Morgan Tsvangirai.

Tsvangirai said the 12 hours of talks failed to resolve the disputes over implementing a power-sharing agreement signed four months ago.

"There has been no progress because the very same outstanding issues on the agenda are the same issues that are creating this impasse," he said. "For us as MDC this is probably the darkest day of our lives."

The agreement would retain Mr. Mugabe as president, but would give Mr. Tsvangirai the newly created post of prime minister.

But implementation stalled after the MDC demanded a more equitable distribution of cabinet ministries and senior government posts and an end to detentions of its supporters.

Mr. Mugabe said the demands went against proposals by SADC mediators.

"That [MDC] counter-proposal is naturally in conflict with the proposal that was given us by SADC which would have made us move forward," said Mr. Mugabe. "So, the meeting broke down. We did not succeed."

The mediators proposed the unity government be formed immediately and then address the MDC demands. They also proposed that a joint-monitoring committee deal with any subsequent disputes. But the MDC insisted that its concerns be addressed first.

A professor at England's Kent University, Alex Magaisa, says the lack of progress is not surprising because of the mutual lack of trust between the parties.

"From the time that they agreed on September 15 of 2008 there were bubbles [problems] and bad faith especially on part of ZANU-PF, and also failure to accept that there is got to be compromise on the part of both parties," said Magaisa. "So they have grown further apart in the period from September 15th."

Magaisa believes there are many Zimbabweans in government who sympathize with the MDC, but who for self-preservation would only show support if it were in the government.

He says joining in a unity government should be seen as a transitional arrangement by the MDC with the potential to gradually gain more power.

"The MDC always have a choice, to get out of government if they realize that it is not working. Give it a try," he said. "If it is not working, you have shown your sincerity, you can get out at any point."

Zimbabweans say they are tired of the political uncertainty that began with disputed elections 10 months ago. Many see a unity government as the only option.

They note that other options, such as mass demonstrations or new elections, have been tried before. But these have always lead back, eventually, to the negotiating table.