HARARE (AFP) — Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and his main political rival failed Wednesday to break their impasse on a power-sharing deal, but said their talks had made progress and would continue a third day.
Former South African leader Thabo Mbeki has led two days of lengthy talks to press Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai to settle their feud over disputed cabinet posts under a faltering power-sharing deal.
"We made some progress. We finish tomorrow," Mugabe told reporters as he left the talks.
Tsvangirai said the negotiations had proceeded "quite circuitously," but his chief negotiator Tendai Biti insisted progress had been made in the seven hours of talks Wednesday.
"History is being made. Mountains are being moved. If we pray hard today something will happen tomorrow," Biti told reporters.
Mbeki brokered the deal signed one month ago, when the rivals agreed to a unity government with 84-year-old Mugabe as president and Tsvangirai in the new post of prime minister.
But Tsvangirai threatened to pull out of the agreement after Mugabe last weekend announced he would award key ministries to his own party, giving him a firm grip on the military, police and other security agencies.
Mbeki flew to Harare on Monday to try to rescue the pact that had raised hopes of an end to months of deadly political unrest and that might allow Zimbabwe to drag itself out of economic ruin.
The state-run Herald newspaper said the negotiations centred on which party would control the finance ministry, a critical portfolio in a country grappling with the world's highest rate of inflation, last estimated at 231 million percent.
Once one of Africa's most prosperous nations, Zimbabwe's stunning economic collapse has caused critical food shortages, with nearly half the population needing UN aid, while leaving 80 percent of the population unemployed.
The Herald claimed Mugabe did not need to reach a consensus with Tsvangirai on appointing the cabinet and could name ministers unilaterally.
"Government is formed by the president," the paper said, adding that the MDC was not fit to oversee security agencies.
"We urge them to get into government, learn the ropes, and build trust," it said. "It is time to move forward; we have spent too much time in one place as it is."
Before the talks began, Tsvangirai said his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) insisted on dividing control of the defence and home affairs ministries.
The MDC has argued that it needs oversight of at least some security agencies to reassure the party's supporters who were the targets of brutal violence during election campaigning earlier this year.
Tsvangirai won a first round presidential vote in March, but pulled out of a June run-off, saying the violence had left more than 100 of his supporters dead.
Mugabe's victory in the uncontested runoff drew international condemnation, and western nations have heaped pressure on his regime to make good on the power-sharing deal.
The European Union has threatened to impose new sanctions on the regime if the deal falls apart, while the United States accused him of violating the agreement.
But analysts say they have little hope for the deal, especially with Mbeki's reduced stature after his own party forced him to resign as South Africa's president last month.
"The deal was like a false dawn," said Heidi Holland, a biographer of Mugabe. "Basically (Mugabe) has his own agenda and he will continue to do what he wants."
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