Senior figures in the Movement for Democratic Change of Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai gathered in Harare on Friday to discuss the way forward as tension rose within the unity government over the lack of progress in talks to resolve issues that have long troubled power sharing.
The meeting of the Tsvangirai MDC formation's standing committee was called after the party's lead negotiator, Tendai Biti, secretary general of the grouping as well as Finance Minister, declared a deadlock after another round of talks on Thursday with the ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe.
But Patrick Chinamasa, lead negotiator for the former ruling ZANU-PF and the minister of justice, told VOA that the talks will resume February 8.
Many MDC insiders say, however, that they want to refer the unsettled agenda to the Southern African Development Community for arbitration - SADC is a guarantor of the power-sharing arrangement along with the African Union. Another option is to call for free and fair elections, though Mr. Tsvangirai himself has indicated he thinks it is early days for a new ballot.
Some political analysts have suggested that the MDC position in the talks was undermined by comments from British Foreign Secretary David Miliband in the House of Commons this week. Miliband said Britain wants to see real progress in Harare, adding: “We have to calibrate our response to the progress on the ground, and, above all, to be guided by what the MDC says to us about the conditions under which it is working and leading the country."
ZANU-PF hardliners seized on those comments as evidence that the MDC could exert more influence in bringing about the lifting of European sanctions, and urging their negotiators concede nothing until that is obtained.
U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe Charles Ray told reporters in Harare that the power-sharing principals should be more flexible to make progress.
South African President Jacob Zuma, mediator for SADC in Zimbabwe, urged Mr. Tsvangirai to compromise rather than waiting for Mr. Mugabe to give way. But Ray said Mr. Mugabe, Mr. Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, the third principal, must all make concessions.
Harare political analyst Philip Pasirayi told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu that it is ZANU-PF which is blocking progress in the talks, as Western sanctions can readily be lifted once fundamental reforms are embraced.