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Zimbabwe Opposition Faction Says MDC Unity Talks Still Moving Ahead

One of the two factions of Zimbabwe’s splintered opposition Movement for Democratic Change on Thursday dismissed reports that talks to form a loose coalition and in time try to reunify the party have collapsed, citing increasingly close cooperation.

Secretary General Tendai Biti of the MDC faction led by founding president Morgan Tsvangirai said the two factions have agreed to field a single candidate in next year’s presidential ballot and to present a unified front to the international community.

The two MDC factions have also closed ranks in the crisis mediation process being led by South African president Thabo Mbeki at the behest of the Southern African Development Community, presenting a common position.

But the MDC is under pressure locally and internationally to reunite so as to maximize its chances of unseating President Robert Mugabe in March 2008.

Biti acknowledged that the two factions have yet to resolve the issue of how to decide which formation will field candidates in the constituencies to be contested. Parliament now has 120 elected seats with 30 filled by the president, but the ruling party has announced its intention to add 60 more for a total of 210 seats.

Spokesman Gabriel Chaibva of the MDC faction headed by Arthur Mutambara declined to comment on the status of reunification talks, saying he would comment only if the rival factions were to achieve a consensus.

Biti told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that talks are aimed at forging a united front against the factions' common opponent, President Mugabe.

Political analyst Glen Mupani of Cape Town University told VOA that there is a risk that self-interest might get in the way of efforts to restore the united party.

The MDC split in October 2005 over the issue of whether to contest elections for the restored senate that November, but also due to escalating internal tensions which saw Tsvangirai break with aides led by then-secretary general Welshman Ncube.

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