Saturday, August 9, 2008

Settlement of Zimbabwe dispute could come Sunday

Could the political crisis that has only deepened Zimbabwe's economic collapse be ending? Reports from Harare say a power-sharing deal could be struck between embattled President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai as early as Sunday. According to the Reuters international news service, Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change who claims he won the presidential election in March, has agreed to serve as prime minister in a new government, according to a high-ranking official in Mugabe's ruling party. But Reuters also says that details of the arrangement are still up in the air, which probably means the deal is only a hope. The dispute is over how many ministries will be controlled by the opposition, which translates to how much power Mugabe, a hero of Zimbabwe's struggle for independence from colonial ruler England, is willing to share with Tsvangirai. The proposed power-sharing deal, obviously pattenered after an arrangement that ended a similar post-election crisis in Kenya, was negotiated in two weeks of talks between the embittered rivals mediated by South African President Thabo Mbeki. The unnamed official from Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party said the deal was reached when the MDC agreed to accept Mugabe as president, Reuters said. "There could be a signing tomorrow, after the leaders have met to thrash out the remaining issues," the official told Reuters on Saturday. Mugabe was re-elected in June after Tsvangirai withdrew from the runoff campaign, claiming his supporters had been victimized by state-sponsored violence. Tsvangirai, who won the first round of voting in March with an official tally of 48 percent of the vote, was forced to take refuge in the Dutch embassy.

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