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Preliminary Zimbabwe Power-Sharing Talks Continue For A Second Day

Negotiators for Zimbabwe's ruling party and opposition met for a second session of talks on Friday to lay the groundwork for substantive discussions on a power-sharing solution to the country's post-election crisis, government and political party sources said.

The talks continued under the chairmanship South African Local Government Minister Sydney Mufamadi, sitting in on behalf of President Thabo Mbeki, the official mediator for the Southern African Development Community since March 2007, when an earlier crisis erupted.

Diplomatic sources said SADC’s troika or three-country committee on regional security might meet early next week to review progress including consideration of an African Union role in the mediation process. It was not clear if Mr. Mbeki would join that meeting. Sources said he is not keen on expanding the mediation process, which could dilute his mediation brief.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who has been critical of Mr. Mbeki’s mediation and urged the appointment of a permanent A.U. envoy to guide the process, has emphasized that these talks are only preliminary, noting that political violence continues to claim the lives of members of his Movement for Democratic Change. He said continued violence could lead the combined MDC to reconsider participation in the talks. The MDC said Friday that the death toll of opposition activists has risen to 114 victims since elections on March 29.

The state-controlled Herald newspaper Friday accused Tsvangirai of flip-flopping on the talks, Tsvangirai told VOA reporter Blessing Zulu that his message is consistent.

Meanwhile, the government warned that increased international sanctions against Harare could lead to civil war. The U.N. Security Council was to meet again Friday to consider a draft resolution for additional financial and travel restrictions against President Robert Mugabe and 13 other senior officials implicated in the three-month wave of political violence.

The Zimbabwean mission to the U.N. said in a letter to the Security Council that the sanctions could lead to the removal of the effective government of the country and lead to a civil war. It said the proposed punitive measures could turn Zimbabwe into another Somalia, referring to the clashes that have continued for 17 years between warring factions there.

Even as the preliminary crisis talks proceeded in Pretoria, the Tsvangirai MDC formation said the bodies of two missing members were discovered on Thursday in Kuwadzana, Harare, and Mutoko in Mashonaland East province. The body found in Kuwadzana has been identified as that of MDC polling agent Gift Mutsvungunu, who disappeared last Saturday.

The party said Mutsvungunu’s decomposing body showed signs he had been tortured: his eyes had been gouged out, and his backside sustained serious burns.

The MDC said the latest discoveries bring to 114 the number of opposition activists killed since the March general and presidential elections in which the opposition claimed a majority in the lower house of parliament and Tsvangirai outpolled President Mugabe.

Elsewhere, the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe said violence against its members has continued, especially in rural areas, despite calls for the dismantling of torture camps set up by the ruling party militia in schools.

PTUZ President Takavafira Zhou told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that in Gutu, Masvingo province, teachers were badly beaten by militia and later forced to eat human waste.

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