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Zimbabwe Opposition Formation Threatens To Exit Crisis Negotiations

The faction of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change headed by MDC founder Morgan Tsvangirai is threatening to pull out of South African-brokered talks with the ruling party which it says is refusing to embrace serious reform.

Leaders of the Tsvangirai MDC formation were to meet in Pretoria on Wednesday to examine their position and strategy. Sources privy to the negotiations told VOA that the talks are in a “final and decisive phase” but the party doubts that the ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe is willing to embrace deep electoral reform.

South African sources said President Thabo Mbeki in his capacity as mediator for the Southern African Development Community wants to bring a draft accord with him to the European Union-African Union summit in Lisbon early next month.

President Mugabe is also said to be keen to provide evidence that he is serious about resolving the country's long-running political and economic crisis.

European diplomats say that unless he can bring something tangible to the table in Lisbon, Mr. Mugabe could find himself in an awkward position at the summit.

President Mugabe confirmed Tuesday to reporters in Mozambique that he planned to attend the summit, following which British Prime Minister Gordon Brown confirmed that he would follow through on his threat to boycott the event if Mr. Mugabe is present.

Sources familiar with the crisis talks said opposition and ruling party negotiators have been haggling over agenda items including a new constitution, thoroughgoing reform of electoral, security and media laws, and the general political environment.

The negotiating parties have been meeting in Harare for at least six hours a day since Sunday. The talks were expected to continue Wednesday before breaking Thursday for the presentation of the 2008 budget to parliament by the finance minister.

Political analyst Peter Kagwanja, a director of the democracy and governance research program of South Africa’s Human Sciences Research Council, told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that pulling out of the talks would be counterproductive and self-defeating for the Tsvangirai faction.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...