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Zimbabwe talks at risk of collapse: opposition
Mon Jan 19, 2009 3:17pm EST
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By MacDonald Dzirutwe
HARARE (Reuters) - Power sharing talks between Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and the opposition are in danger of collapse, an opposition source said on Monday, raising fears an economic crisis will deepen without a government.
The assessment came after regional leaders started talks with Mugabe and opposition parties in a renewed push for implementation of September's power-sharing agreement.
The source close to the negotiations told Reuters they were "almost certain to collapse." There was no immediate comment from Mugabe's officials on the talks.
A unity government, delayed over the distribution of cabinet posts, is seen as the best chance of preventing total collapse in once prosperous Zimbabwe, where prices double every day and more than 2,000 people have died in a cholera epidemic.
Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) on Monday insisted on controlling several key ministries before any government can be formed with Mugabe, suggesting no progress had been made on the main hurdle.
The party said in a position paper it remained committed to an agreement as long as it controlled powerful ministries such as home affairs, finance and information.
It said abductions of its members, which it blames on Mugabe's ZANU-PF, proved "beyond a shadow of a doubt" its rivals had not respected the spirit of the September pact and said it would not join a unity government until all its demands are met.
CALLS FOR COMPPROMISE
South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, Mozambique leader Armando Guebuza and Thabo Mbeki, regional mediator and South Africa's former president, are hoping to persuade the rival parties to reach an agreement to save the pact.
But regional grouping SADC has failed to secure a compromise, despite international calls for stronger action and pleas for help from opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
"Now is the time to find common ground among Zimbabweans. Now is the time for flexibility, compromise and pragmatism," Arthur Mutambara, head of a breakaway MDC faction who joined the talks with Tsvangirai and Mugabe, told reporters at the venue.
"As the opposition, we share and agree with the demands made by MDC-T. Those demands must be addressed. We hope Robert Mugabe and ZANU-PF respond positively to those demands."
Zimbabwe's economic and humanitarian crisis has deepened during months of political stalemate and an aid group warned on Monday that hundreds of thousands of people could be at risk from a surge in cases of malaria, which can be deadly.
The United Nations-backed Roll Back Malaria Partnership said 1.63 million Zimbaweans were at increased risk of contracting malaria after usual prevention measures were neglected by health workers busy trying to contain the cholera epidemic.
Mugabe said the MDC should accept the deal or end talks over its implementation, state media reported. Continued...
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