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Zimbabwe Crisis Talks Said To Stall Over Constitution, Election Date

Talks between Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change have again bogged down over the timing of the next elections and the adoption of a new constitution, sources informed on the talks said Thursday.

The wrangling is likely to push the negotiations beyond a December 15 target date for their completion, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

They said negotiators of teh ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe are calling for adoption of a new constitution to come only after elections set for March. But the opposition remains adamant that a new constitution must be put in place before the elections, which should be delayed six months after the conclusion of the talks.

Sources in Pretoria, South Africa, said President Thabo Mbeki as mediator has been taken aback by the new position adopted by ZANU-PF negotiators, who according to the sources agreed earlier to introduce a new constitution before the elections.

Talks continued in Pretoria despite the opening of a ZANU-PF extraordinary congress at which President Mugabe was endorsed late Thursday as candidate for re-election in elections he said will be held in March "without delay." Sources said negotiators were meeting evenings as well as days in an effort to hammer out an accord.

Cordinator Jacob Mafume of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that he does not believe ZANU-PF was ever sincere about setting a new Zimbabwean constitution in place.

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