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Zuma Holds Talks with Both Mugabe, Tsvangirai to Break Deadlock

Zimbabwe's two main political leaders, President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai had talks with outgoing South African Development Community (SADC) chairman and President of South Africa Jacob Zuma into the early hours of Friday morning. Mr. Zuma came to Harare to try and unblock outstanding issues from the political agreement which is nearly a year old and which brought the unity government in Zimbabwe to power in February.

Mr. Zuma has had one-on-one talks with both Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Tsvangirai and then with both of them together since he arrived in Harare late Thursday.

Mr. Zuma seemed confident that outstanding political roadblocks to fulfillment of the political agreement could be solved.

Mr. Mugabe and his closest lieutenants have told Mr. Zuma that existing European Union and U.S. visa and business restrictions against the top ZANU-PF leadership, were an outstanding issue from the political agreement. Mr. Mugabe blames these restrictions for Zimbabwe's economic problems.

"Those very countries who have hitherto imposed sanctions on us still maintain these illegal punitive measures in spite of the progress we have made as an inclusive government. One is tempted to conclude, your Excellency, that regime change on the part of our detractors is still an active policy option," he said.

After the talks between the three political leaders, Mr. Zuma opened the Harare Agricultural Show and in his speech mentioned the work done by Movement for Democratic Change finance minister Tendai Biti, who he said had ensured an end to hyper inflation by introducing multi currencies in to the economy at the beginning of the inclusive government.

He said Zimbabwe's economy had been built on agriculture and that it had been the bread basket of the region and he hoped the sector would recover soon.

He also spoke about the need for Zimbabwe to resolve the outstanding issues in the political agreement.

"We appeal to the international commnity to remove any remaining hindrances to Zimbabwe's economic recoverery including sanctions and at the same time we also emphasize that the parties in Zimbabwe should work together to remove any remaining obstacles to implementation of the agreement," said Mr. Zuma.

Political sources say that Mr. Tsvangirai has an easier relationship with Mr. Zuma than his predecessor, former South African President Thabo Mbeki, who was the facilitator of the political agreement on behalf of SADC.

Mr. Tsvangirai's colleagues say Mr. Zuma's approach and conduct in the talks which have now ended was "very fair."

In the talks, Mr. Tsvangirai highlighted that Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) provincial governors have not been sworn in, nor has his deputy agriculture minister, Roy Bennett, and senior civil servants in key positions were appointed by Mr. Mugabe after the political agreement was signed in Harare in September of last year.

Next week, an MDC political source said, will be a crucial test for the inclusive government as SADC is holding a summit in Kinshasa and the chairmanship passes from Mr. Zuma to Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila.

Also on the agenda at the summit, is a ruling against Mr. Mugabe, accusing him of contempt of the regional group's tribunal last year, which ordered him to leave the few remaining white farmers in peace.

Mr. Zuma toured the Harare Agricultural Show before opening it Friday.