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Zimbabwe Ruling Party, Opposition To Brief Parliament On Pretoria-Brokered Talks

After nearly six months of halting discussions, Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party and both factions of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change will brief lawmakers on Tuesday on the progress of the South African-mediated negotiations.

ZANU-PF sources said Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, representing the ruling party, will open the briefing, followed by Thokozane Khupe, vice president of the MDC faction headed by Morgan Tsvangirai, and finally Welshman Ncube, secretary general of the MDC faction led by Arthur Mutambara.

Chinamasa is also expected to unveil changes to the constitutional amendment which the ruling party tabled in parliament last week, and which has moved to center stage in the discussions given that it could significantly affect the electoral dispensation.

South African President Thabo Mbeki, named by the Southern African Development Community in March to mediate the Zimbabwe crisis, reportedly met with Tsvangirai and Mutambara on the weekend to brief them about the talks.

Ncube confirmed that the meeting took place but declined to provide further details, saying the discussions were confidential. But sources in Pretoria told VOA that the two opposition leaders voiced concern about the timing of the proposed changes to the constitution, given the proximity of March 2008 presidential and general elections.

But ZANU-PF and MDC representatives have reportedly been meeting daily in Harare, briefing briefing Pretoria every three weeks. Mr. Mbeki was said to be scheduled to meet with non-governmental organizations for their further input in the talks.

Some civic groups remain skeptical about the usefulness of the talks.

Executive Director Arnold Tsunga of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, among the NGO leaders consulted by Mr. Mbeki, said he is worried that the views of ordinary Zimbabweans and human rights won't weigh enough in an eventual deal.

Cape Town-based political analyst Glen Mpani told reporter Blessing Zulu that it is significant Mr. Mbeki met with the principal players in the talks.

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