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Despite Reunification Talk, Zimbabwe Opposition Factions Remain Wary

Founding president Morgan Tsvangirai of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change has called on all opposition parties, including a rival MDC faction led by Arthur Mutambara, to unite behind a single presidential candidate in 2008.

Tsvangirai confirmed that his faction has set up a committee to engage the other MDC faction on reunification - the MDC fractured late last year over whether or not to field candidates in the November 2005 senate elections, Tsvangirai favoring a boycott.

So-called pro-senate faction leader Mutambara declined to comment on the issue of reunification, saying such a discussion was premature.

But Tsvangirai's call for unity talks has drawn a mixed response from the Mutambara faction. In a policy paper circulated late last week, spokesman Gabriel Chaibva said the Mutambara faction was "not opposed to any talks aimed at bringing about the reunification of all democratic forces." But he said contacts between the two factions so far had only been made to "establish mutual respect and recognition."

Chaibva set conditions for reunification including the acceptance of responsibility for the breakup by the Tsvangirai faction, which does not seem likely to comply. His press statement then turned to vilification of the rival opposition grouping.

"We have known for some time as most Zimbabweans now do, that the Tsvangirai grouping is insincere, and downright dishonest," Chaibva wrote, accusing the other faction "negotiating through the press" and breaking off preliminary discussions.

"Our view is that the statements and pronouncements about reunification are no more than a public relations exercise designed to hoodwink the nation into believing that they are genuinely interested in reunification when their conduct towards other democratic forces suggests arrogance and disdain," Chaibva stated.

Tsvangirai told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that a divided opposition stands no chance against the ruling ZANU-PF party in 2008.

But Chaibva expanded on why the grouping is demanding the Tsvangirai faction take blame for the split and pledge to respect the constitution of the divided party.

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