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Zimbabwe Talks On Back Burner As AU Mediation Role Considered

Talks went ahead Friday as scheduled between South African President Thabo Mbeki, mediator in power-sharing talks between Zimbabwe's ruling party and opposition, and African Union Commission Chairman Jean Ping, on possibly sharing the task of mediation.

Discussions in Pretoria were believed to have focused on the question of whether the African Union should appoint its own envoy to help push the Zimbabwe crisis resolution talks ahead. Those discussions were put on hold pending the outcome of the Mbeki-Ping talks.

The MDC has demanded that the AU name and envoy to work full-time with Mr. Mbeki - it has made no secret of its dissatisfaction with Mr. Mbeki’s mediation, accusing him of being biased towards President Robert Mugabe and failing to acknowledge the depth of the crisis.

MDC officials were tight-lipped Friday and ZANU-PF Information Secretary Nathan Shamuyarira told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the ruling ruling party is not privy to the Mbeki-Ping discussions

International Crisis Group Senior Political Analyst Sydney Masamvu said the MDC seems to have achieved some gains in the talks.

Former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan, meanwhile, called upon Mr. Mbeki to step up his crisis mediation – and to put President Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai on an equal footing in the talks.

However, Annan did not take sides on the question of adding an AU envoy to the mediation process, instead uttering the cryptic statement that “the mediation effort should have but one master, the Zimbabwean people.”

Annan made his comments on behalf of the Elders, a group of international statesmen which includes Nelson Mandela and former U.S. president Jimmy Carter. Annan was in Pretoria receiving an honorary doctorate from the University of South Africa.

Political Analyst Hermann Hanekom of Cape Town told VOA English to Africa reporter Peter Clottey that Annan and the Elders could be useful as "brokers" in the crisis talks.

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