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South African-Brokered Zimbabwe Crisis Negotiations Seen Foundering

Speculation is mounting that talks between Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change are breaking down despite efforts by the South African mediation team led by President Thabo Mbeki to paper over breaches.

Pessimism about the fate of the negotiations rose after two ZANU-PF representatives to the talks failed to appear at scheduled a scheduled July 7 negotiating round

South African media reports said Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe barred the ZANU-PF team from attending the talks following a top-level meeting in Harare July 6 at which ZANU-PF brass resolved to disengage from the negotiations, seen as likely to weaken the ruling party's position in the run-up to elections in early 2008.

Mr. Mugabe has also rejected a main MDC negotiating demand for a thoroughgoing revision of the constitution so as to ensure a level electoral playing field.

South African-based independent political analyst Hermann Hanekom told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that even if the talks resume, Mr. Mugabe and ZANU-PF would merely seek to buy time ahead of the elections.

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