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Zimbabwe: Ruling Party-Opposition Talks Begin - 2002-04-08

With Nigerian and South African mediation, Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu PF and opposition Movement for Democratic Change began talks yesterday following last month's hotly contested elections, which gave President Robert Mugabe six more years in office. The mediators, Nigerian statesman Adebayo Adedeji and African-National-Congress Secretary General Kgalema Motlanthe, face quite a challenge.

Ahead of the talks, President Robert Mugabe says the next presidential elections will be in six years time when his term of office ends. MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai said on Sunday the only way forward was for an internationally supervised re-run of the last month's presidential elections.

The talks centered around moving forward from the presidential elections which were condemned by several observer groups, the most prominent of which was the Commonwealth's.

The Zanu PF delegation is headed by justice minister Patrick Chianamasa, and the MDC Secretary General, Professor Welshman Ncube, is leading the MDC team.

Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth after it reported that the elections were neither free nor fair.

Zimbabwean political commentator, Professor Masipule Sithole, says it is important for the two sides to resolve their differences. He and other political observers say President Mugabe has sanctioned talks because he needs international recognition to raise foreign loans to buy food.

Zimbabwe has no foreign currency and its agricultural output has dwindled since Mr Mugabe launched invasions of white owned farms more than two years ago.

Mr Mugabe is presently in Tripoli looking for an extension of a fuel contract from Libya which expires at the end of the month.