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Zimbabwe Power-Sharing Talks Reportedly Resume

By Scott Bobb
29 August 2008

Officials in South Africa say the stalled talks between Zimbabwe's ruling party and the opposition have resumed Friday. The announcement came as the Zimbabwean government said it was lifting a ban on humanitarian agencies working in the country. Southern Africa correspondent Scott Bobb reports from Johannesburg.

South Africa's Deputy Foreign Minister, Aziz Pahad, announced the resumption of the Zimbabwe talks more than two weeks after they stalled over power sharing between President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party and two parties of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, MDC.

"Today's talks must now try to see what else can be done to get a consensus among all three parties on the way forward. So if it takes them longer, I hope they will stay longer and resolve these outstanding issues," he said.

The MDC won a majority of the parliamentary seats in general elections in March and the leader of its main faction, Morgan Tsvangirai, won the most votes in the presidential poll.

But Tsvangirai did not win a 50 percent majority and withdrew from the runoff election against Mr. Mugabe, ZANU-PF supporters of waging a campaign of violence that killed more than 100 activists.

Since then, the two sides have been negotiating an end to the crisis. They reportedly were close to an agreement in which Mr. Mugabe would remain as head-of-state and Tsvangirai would occupy a newly created post of prime minister.

But the talks collapsed two weeks ago reportedly over the distribution of powers. Mr. Mugabe Wednesday threatened to form a Cabinet without the opposition after being heckled the day before during the opening of parliament.

The Zimbabwean government Friday said it was lifting a three-month ban on private humanitarian organizations that had been providing food, health care and other aid to millions of Zimbabweans.

The Red Cross has issued an urgent appeal for donations, saying five million Zimbabweans, or one-half of the population, were facing food shortages.

South African official Aziz Pahad noted that the international community has drawn up an economic recovery plan that could help ease the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe.

"But unless there's a political solution you don't have the necessary framework in order to implement an economic recovery program. So the talks are crucial, all talks are crucial now, in order to find a way forward," said Pahad.

Zimbabweans have been hard hit by an economic crisis characterized by hyper-inflation, 80 percent unemployment and shortages of food and fuel.

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