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Nigerian Official Confirms Zimbabwe Talks in Offing

A spokesperson for Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo confirmed on Monday that President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe has agreed to hold political discussions with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai on the country's crisis under the auspices of the African Union whose chairmanship President Obasanjo currently holds.

Nigerian presidential spokesperson Remi Oyo told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyele of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that no time frame has been set for the discussions.

But Ms. Oyo confirmed that Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Tsvangirai, president of the Movement for Democratic Change, have agreed in principle to hold talks aimed at resolving the Zimbabwe political crisis, which has deepened since Harare launched a radical slum-clearance program in May.

In Harare, though, senior officials of both the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, were unwilling to confirm or deny talks were in the offing. State Security Minister Didymus Mutasa said he was not aware that President Mugabe had agreed to such talks. MDC sources said they knew of a talks initiative, but considered it too early to comment.

For perspective on these delicate negotiations for a face-to-face meeting between the Zimbabwean president and his leading political opponent, reporter Blessing Zulu turned to International Crisis Group Director for Southern Africa Peter Kangwanja to ask if it seems likely Mr. Obasanjo can revive discussions stalled since 2002.

Earlier, reporter Zulu reached MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi, who addressed the question of what expectations the opposition had of any such talks.