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Impasse In Zimbabwe Crisis Talks Over Tsvangirai Power-Sharing Role

Negotiators for Zimbabwe's ruling party and opposition were reported late Monday to have broken off power-sharing talks after reaching an impasse over the position opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai would hold within a national unity or transitional government.

News reports and sources close to the talks said the two sides deadlocked after the ruling ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe proposed Tsvangirai, founder of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and the front-runner in the country's March 29 first-round presidential election, should accept the post of third vice president.

MDC negotiators insisted he should be prime minister with executive powers.

Reports said Tsvangirai was heading to Pretoria from Harare late Monday to consult with his negotiators, Tendai Biti and Elton Mangoma, secretary general and deputy treasurer of his MDC formation respectively, while ZANU-PF chief negotiators Patrick Chinamasa and Nicholas Goche, respectively ministers of justice and labor, were on their way to Harare for consultations with Mr. Mugabe and the ZANU-PF leadership.

ZANU-PF's politiburo last week said Mr. Mugabe must head any new government emerging from the talks, declaring that this was a non-negotiable point.

But sources close to the talks say the demand that Tsvangirai be given an inferior position is being pushed by senior military and police officials who worry that a major change in leadership might expose them to dismissal or prosecution.

The military is alleged to have engineered the murders of more than 150 opposition officials and members in political violence after the March 29 elections. Observers said the violence was intended to punish segments of the electorate for supporting the opposition, and to reduce the MDC before the presidential run-off June 27 which Mr. Mugabe won uncontested.

Sources added that despite the breakdown, some headway had been made in the talks including on constitutional amendments that would accommodate rival MDC formation leader Arthur Mutambara and other politicians lacking a seat in either the house or the senate.

Meanwhile, the recent expansion of European and U.S. lists of sanctioned government officials and related persons and enterprises is said to have irked the ruling party.

Former ZANU-PF chief parliamentary whip Joram Gumbo told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that such sanctions are counter-productive.

Political analyst Hermann Hanekom of Cape Town, South Africa, said ZANU-PF understands that insisting Mr. Mugabe head the next government could derail negotiations but that the so-called "securocrats" are resisting changes that would jeopardize their position.

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