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Southern African Regional Official in Harare to Push Unity Government Talks

Southern African diplomatic sources voiced concern at the expansion of the agenda on the table in talks among the three parties to Zimbabwe's troubled national unity government aimed at resolving contentious issues

Southern African Development Community Executive Secretary Tomaz Salomao flew into Harare on Thursday to press the parties to the power-sharing government there to reach agreement on at least some of the "outstanding issues" that have been troubling the unity government since it's February inception.

Negotiators for the ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe, the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC grouping of Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara face a Saturday deadline for concluding this round of discussions - though a communiqué issued by SADC on November 5 is vague on the meaning of the 30-day term.

What is clear, however, is that regional officials including SADC Chairman and Mozambique President Armando Guebuza and South African President Jacob Zuma, mediator in the Harare crisis, expect some results by then.

Sources privy to the talks told VOA that the agenda has grown to 27 issues from six initially, as the governing parties have refined positions and strategies.

For most of the past 10 months since the unity government was formed, feuds between ZANU-PF and the Tsvangirai MDC focused on appointments including the governor of the Reserve Bank and the attorney general as well as those of MDC provincial governors and ambassadors. But more recently debate has shifted to charges of "pirate" radio stations broadcasting to Zimbabwe - including VOA Studio 7 and London-based SW Radio Africa.

The September 2008 Global Political Agreement setting out the terms of power sharing urged foreign governments funding such broadcast operations to cease doing so and for Zimbabwean expatriate broadcasters to come home.

South African mediators and SADC officials urge that the agenda be narrowed down to the most important issues and discussions concluded expeditiously.

Regional diplomatic sources expressed shock that instead of focusing on operational government issues such as top posts the power-sharing parties are wrangling over National Heroes and an alleged MDC parallel government.

Despite such impatience, Prime Minister Tsvangirai told reporters in Cape Town that the tripartite negotiators are making progress.

Political analyst Joy Mabenge told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu that the expanding agenda reflects a lack of trust among the governing partners.

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