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Delayed Zimbabwe Power-Sharing Talks Seen Beginning Thursday

Zimbabwean power-sharing talks between the ruling ZANU-PF and the two formations of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change were expected to begin on Thursday in Pretoria, later than expected due to last-minute ruling party internal consultations, sources said.

South African President Thabo Mbeki, mediator for the Southern African Development Community, had pushed for talks to get going on Tuesday immediately following the signing Monday of a memorandum of understanding setting the framework for the talks.

But sources said ZANU-PF mediators Patrick Chinamasa and Nicholas Goche, respectively the ministers of justice and labor under President Robert Mugabe, said they needed to consult with the ruling party leadership following which they headed for Pretoria on Wednesday.

Chinamasa confirmed to state media that the talks will resume Thursday.

Negotiators for the MDC formation led by Morgan Tsvangirai used the the time to reconfigure their team. Secretary General Tendai Biti and Deputy Treasurer Elton Mangoma will represent the Tsvangirai formation at the table. But MDC Women's Assembly Chairwoman Theresa Makone and Chairman Lovemore Moyo will be on hand as observers.

Political analysts meanwhile warned that the deal-breaker in the talks will be the issue of who heads the government of national unity or transitional authority under consideration.

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, speaking in London Wednesday, said Tsvangirai and Mr. Mugabe must be flexible about the question of leadership, but he added that the talks must give Mugabe a safe exit from power for the sake of the people.

Odinga arrived in the Kenyan prime minister's post through a similar process of negotiation on the exercise of power following a contested election and widespread violence

Political analyst Chris Maroleng told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the early delay in the Pretoria talks could signal lengthy negotiations ahead.

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