July 3, 2008

Rivals set out terms for unity talks

The outlines of a negotiation - if not a deal - in Zimbabwe began to form for President Thabo Mbeki in Thursday as that country's two main political protagonists laid down markers in the wake of an African Union (AU) call for Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai to form a "unity" government in Harare. Mugabe's information minister, Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, said the incumbent Zanu (PF) had no objections to a unity government, while Tsvangirai 's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) rejected the idea, but instead proposed a transitional government leading to new elections, and insisted on the presence of an AU envoy during any negotiations that Mbeki might try to facilitate.
Tsvangirai also said any talks would have to start from the basis that he had won the elections held on March 29. While the two sides may seem far apart, they may have actually provided Mbeki and any other mediators with a starting point. "Government is ready for dialogue with whoever - a dialogue for national unity in Zimbabwe," Ndlovu told Agence France Presse. The two sides' clearer positions on negotiations began taking shape as Mbeki, the Southern African Development Community facilitator, said Mugabe had no objections to a government of national unity.
In an interview with the SABC, Mbeki said: "He (Mugabe) said they were committed to that (a government of national unity). Even as we were sitting at the meeting the Zimbabweans were interacting amongst themselves." The detente between the parties gives Mbeki an opportunity to facilitate negotiations and a face-to-face meeting between the two leaders.
Tsvangirai said that while he remained committed to negotiations, his party would not talk to Zanu (PF) unless certain conditions were met. He said talks must be based on the outcome of the March elections, which he and his party won. He also said he did not want a government of national unity or a power- sharing deal with Mugabe, but a transitional arrangement that led to fresh elections and a new government. Tsvangirai said while he acknowledged positive sections of the AU resolution on Zimbabwe, taken this week in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt, he was concerned about the body's call for a government of national unity. He said instead of a government of national unity, the AU should appoint a permanent envoy to work out an urgent solution. Mbeki could not mediate on his own, as he had proved not to be impartial. (Business Day, Johannesburg)

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