Finance ministers of member nations of the Southern African Development Community gathered in Lusaka, Zambia, Monday to talk about economic integration of the region, trade and other commercial questions, with discussions of the crisis in Zimbabwe looming as the main topic facing heads of state assembling later this week.

Briefing reporters in Lusaka, SADC Infrastructure Acting Chief Director Remmy Makumbe said the focus has been on issues needing urgent attention.

SADC Trade, Finance and Investment Director Makokokure Muringe said ministers will report to SADC heads of state on whether a free trade area by 2008 is viable.

But Zimbabwe is the big issue on the SADC agenda, with South African President Thabo Mbeki scheduled to brief his fellow heads of states on his progress - limited, most analysts say - in mediating a solution in the political-economic crisis.

Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party and its opposition were working hard to influence SADC officials on what position they might adopt on Zimbabwe this week.

South Africa?s Mail and Guardian publication reported that a document of unclear origin circulating in Lusaka this week says Mr. Mbeki has voiced concern that Britain continues to ?deny its role as the principal protagonist in the [Zimbabwean crisis] and is persisting with its activities to isolate Zimbabwe," echoing Harare's own line.

Commentator Chido Makunike told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that SADC leaders need to move beyond such issues, if the deepening crisis in Zimbabwe is to be resolved.

Elsewhere, officials of the opposition faction of Morgan Tsvangirai were to meet this evening with secretary general Katele Kalumba of the Zambian ruling party, the Movement for Multi-Democracy.

Chairman Lovemore Moyo, deputy president Thokozani Khupe, secretary for International Affairs Eliphas Mukonoweshuro and Deputy treasurer general Elton Mangoma were to meet Kalumba.

Mukonweshuro tells Patience Rusere that the opposition delegation wants to put the record straight on the causes of the crisis ? and the solutions it proposes to end it.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...