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More Negotiations Due After Zimbabwe Party Talks - 2002-04-10

Talks between Zimbabwe's Ruling ZANU-PF and opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) have resulted in an agenda for further negotiations.

The talks, which were mediated by officials from Nigeria and South Africa, follow Zimbabwe's suspension from the Commonwealth after last month's elections, which gave President Robert Mugabe another six years in power.

The Commonwealth suspended Zimbabwe for a year, saying the elections were neither free nor fair.

Nigerian diplomat Adebayo Adedeji and Kgaleme Mothlante, secretary general of South Africa's ruling African National Congress, surprised observers when they emerged, agreeing that talks would resume between the two parties on May 13.

The agenda for further negotiations includes the legitimacy of Mr. Mugabe's presidential victory, and land reform, as agreed at a Commonwealth foreign ministers' meeting last September in Abuja, Nigeria, which were endorsed by Mr. Mugabe.

The Commonwealth says that none of the points made in the Abuja agreement were implemented by the Zimbabwe government.

Observers say the agenda for negotiations next month include the main planks of the MDC's argument for a re-run of presidential elections under international mediation.

One observer said he regretted the month's delay before the next talks as this gave ZANU-PF leeway for further violence against the MDC.

At the talks, Mr. Mugabe's team ensured Zimbabwe's sovereignty was on the agenda, which it says rules out foreign involvement in domestic affairs, including elections.

After the talks, ZANU-PF team leader, justice minister Patrick Chinamasa said the two sides held differing views on all the issues on the agenda. MDC Secretary-General Welshman Ncube accepts at face value the agenda, which could help ensure international recognition of the Zimbabwean government. Once this is achieved, the currently bankrupt Zimbabwe would then be in a position to raise foreign currency to buy massive amounts of the country's staple food, maize.

Zimbabwe's political crisis is seen as the first test for South Africa's calls for an African "Marshall Plan," where Western countries direct trade and investment to the impoverished continent in exchange for African promises of good governance.