Southern African leaders in Zimbabwe for negotiations

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Southern African leaders arrived in Zimbabwe Monday for crisis talks to salvage a power-sharing deal in danger of collapse over cabinet-sharing disagreements between the government and the opposition.

Leaders from Angola, Mozambique and Swaziland, who make up a special organ on politics, defence and security of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), were mediating in a dispute over control of ministerial posts in a proposed government of national unity in Zimbabwe.

President Robert Mugabe and the opposition last month signed a power-sharing deal, but have differed on control of important ministries.

The Kenya-style deal was brokered by SADC in an attempt to end Zimbabwe’s long running political crisis, which deepened after inconclusive presidential elections in March and June.

The opposition has accused Mugabe of grabbing all the powerful ministries, including defence, home affairs, finance, justice and information, and has threatened to pull out of the proposed government of national unity unless it has a share of important cabinet portfolios.

Monday’s meeting is a follow-up to last week’s failed SADC-brokered talks on Zimbabwe in Swaziland, from which main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai pulled out after being denied a new passport. His passport expired several months ago, but the government has refused to renew it, on grounds it has no paper.

The African leaders started their meeting Monday morning, and were expected to spend much of the day locked up in negotiations. The African Union and SADC are joint guarantors of Zimbabwe’s power-sharing deal, which they see as the only viable way out of the country’s protracted political troubles.

The two organisations appointed former South African President Thabo Mbeki to be their official mediator in Zimbabwe.

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