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At 100-Day Mark, Zimbabwe Unity Government Pares Contentious Agenda

The principals in Zimbabwe's uneasy national unity government have reached agreement on a number of issues troubling their partnership, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said Thursday on the eve of his 100th day in office, but some major questions remain unresolved.

In particular, the deal leaves Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono and Attorney General Johannes Tomana in place contrary to Mr. Tsvangirai's wishes. But the agreement is considered to give the "all-inclusive" government a new lease on life at a critical juncture, and the unresolved issues will be referred to African regional organizations for arbitration.

The centerpiece of the agreement reached earlier this week by Mr. Tsvangirai, President Robert Mugabe, and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara concerned redistribution of the governorships of the Southern African country's 10 provinces.

Five will go to Mr. Tsvangirai's formation of the Movement for Democratic Change, four to Mr. Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front or ZANU-PF, and one to the breakaway MDC formation headed by Mutambara.

The agreement settles another point of contention: former parliamentarian Roy Bennett, the treasurer of Mr. Tsvangirai's MDC formation, is to be sworn into office as deputy minister of agriculture on or before the day on which the new governors are sworn in.

Mr. Mugabe had refused to swear Bennett into office on grounds that the former farmer, arrested the same day the unity cabinet was sworn in Feb. 13, still faced charges related to an alleged - and largely debunked - 2006 plot to assassinate the president.

Most of the permanent secretaries appointed to ministries by Mr. Mugabe will remain in place - though Mr. Tsvangirai told reporters in a news conference that he intends to take steps to ensure that these key civil service positions are insulated from party politics.

On ambassadorial appointments, another "outstanding issue," Mr. Tsvangirai said candidates from the two MDC formations would receive diplomatic training, and that of the next five openings for envoys four would be filled from his party, one from Mutambara's.

Correspondent Irwin Chifera reported from Harare for VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Mr. Tsvangirai said his party still wants the Southern African Development Community and the African Union to arbitrate agreement on the central bank chief and attorney general.

Mr. Tsvangirai immediately announced his nominees for the provincial governor posts : James Makore for Harare, Seiso Moyo for Bulawayo, Lucia Matibenga for Masvingo, Tose Sansole for Matabeleland North and Julius Magarangoma for Manicaland.

The prime minister said the nominees will be sworn in as soon as possible, adding that the deal calls for compensation of the ZANU-PF named governors to be replaced.

Special Projects Editor Iden Wetherell of the Zimbabwe Independent weekly newspaper told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that overall there has been too little forward movement on a range of issues – particularly on promised media reform.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expanded on Washington's Zimbabwe policy in an interview with South African television, declaring among other comments that it is in the “best interests of everyone” for President Mugabe to step down.

Clinton reaffirmed the US position that Washington won’t fund the new government so long as there is a risk such funding will not be directed to where it is most needed.

But Clinton said the American policy is now under review.

The interview with the South African Broadcasting Corp. was conducted on Tuesday but was distributed by the State Department on Wednesday.

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