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Regional leaders meet to tackle Zimbabwe crisis
Mon Jan 26, 2009 10:03am EST
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By Stella Mapenzauswa and MacDonald Dzirutwe
PRETORIA (Reuters) - Regional leaders met Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and the opposition at a summit in South Africa Monday to try to push them to implement a power-sharing deal that has been stalled for months.
The agreement is seen as a chance to prevent an economic collapse that could put added strain on neighbors which already host millions of Zimbabweans who fled in search of work and, more recently, to escape a deadly cholera epidemic.
Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, head of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), signed the agreement in September but have failed to agree on control of cabinet posts, with neither side showing any sign of compromise.
"We cannot continue talking and talking and talking without proceeding to the implementation," South African President Kgalema Motlanthe told reporters.
"This extraordinary summit is meant to bring about the final decision on this matter... So that we can expand our energies to the real task of alleviating poverty of all people in the region."
Mugabe, in power since 1980, and his ZANU-PF party have urged the opposition to join a unity government but say they will not hesitate to form one without them. Mugabe is expected to seek approval from regional leaders at the summit in Pretoria to form a government alone if need be.
Western leaders want Mugabe to step down and are pushing for a democratic government to embrace economic reforms before billions of dollars in aid is offered, but he has resisted their calls through several rounds of negotiations.
In Brussels, the European Union stepped up pressure on him Monday by adding 27 individuals and 36 firms to a sanctions list and calling for a probe into Harare's diamond industry, EU officials said.
A Zimbabwean deputy minister billed Monday's summit as the last chance for rescuing the power-sharing pact, viewed as the best hope for averting total meltdown in Zimbabwe, where prices double every day and cholera has killed nearly 2,900 people since August.
"The way forward soon after this summit, whether there is an agreement or there is no agreement, President Mugabe is going to form a cabinet," deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga told South African public broadcaster SAFM radio.
He said Mugabe would try to leave room for Tsvangirai if he decided to change his mind, but not for long.
Tsvangirai says ZANU-PF is trying to sideline him and wants control of powerful ministries such as Home Affairs. He says no deal is possible unless party activists are released from jail.
The 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit hosted by Motlanthe hopes to break the impasse.
Zambia and Botswana have taken tough lines but other countries in the bloc favor a more diplomatic approach with Mugabe, who they still revere as a liberation hero. Continued...
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