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Zimbabwe Parties Trade Barbs As Parliamentary Amendment Votes Put Off

Zimbabwe's interim government has put off to next week parliamentary voting on a bill to amend the constitution to allow the formation of national unity government, as the ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe and the Movement for Democratic Change formation led by prime minister-designate Morgan Tsvangirai traded barbs.

Political sources earlier said the lower house would take up the bill Wednesday, but tabling of the legislation has been postponed amid confusion over the process for resolving lingering issues which the Tsvangirai MDC says must be settled for the bill to be passed.

The Southern African Development Community urged negotiators to immediately address the issues of a National Security Council and the apportionment of provincial governorships.

Negotiators for the MDC traveled to Pretoria, South Africa, on Tuesday for such talks, but those for ZANU-PF did not appear, saying they were not aware of the rendezvous.

Tsvangirai MDC officials accused ZANU-PF of backtracking and delaying on key issues.

ZANU-PF officials responded that they are serious, as demonstrated by their attendance of a meeting of the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee on Monday. The panel is to verify that the terms of the September 15 power-sharing accord are respected.

Interim Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, chief negotiator for ZANU-PF, told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the MDC is misrepresenting why the negotiators for his party did not show up in Pretoria on Tuesday.

But Tsvangirai MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa insisted that ZANU-PF is negotiating in bad faith warning that the amendment bill will not pass unless the outstanding issues have been handled - the combined MDC formations have a majority in the lower house.

Meanwhile, President Mugabe, speaking at the conclusion of an African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, blamed Western sanctions for the country’s economic woes even as some of his foreign adversaries seem to be shifting their Zimbabwe policy.

The AU on Saturday called for the financial and travel sanctions on top Mugabe-government officials and others considered supportive to the administration to be lifted. But Britain and the United States have expressed skepticism about the agreement to form the unity government, indicating sanctions will remain pending convincing reforms.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, meanwhile, said he is sending a delegation to Harare to assess humanitarian needs.

Political analyst Brian Kagoro told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that too early for the Western powers to effect a major shift in policy.

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