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Mugabe's Term Could Reportedly be Shortened - 2002-04-03

A Zimbabwean newspaper is reporting that possible reconciliation talks between the government and opposition leaders could include discussions on President Robert Mugabe leaving office early.

The weekly Financial Gazette Thursday quotes unidentified ruling party insiders as saying the president's new six-year term could be reduced to end in 2005 to coincide with the end of the parliament's term.

The newspaper says the president's early departure could be on the table as a bargaining chip, once talks get underway. Nigerian and South African mediators are in Zimbabwe in an effort to start reconciliation talks between the government and the opposition in the wake of last month's disputed presidential elections.

Leaders from both sides have said they are reluctant to commit to talks until they have consulted with the mediators, and it is not clear when reconciliation talks might start.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change maintains that last month's presidential elections, which returned President Mugabe to power, were neither free nor fair. Opposition leaders have made discussing new elections a condition for holding the talks. The president has dismissed calls for a new election.

Some information for this report provided by AFP, AP and DPA.