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Zimbabwe's Mugabe Said To Accept Tsvangirai As Prime Minister

Under intense pressure from African and Western governments to conclude power-sharing negotiations, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe has agreed to create a prime minister's post for opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, sources close to crisis talks said Thursday.

But sources in Mr. Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party and in Pretoria said Mr. Mugabe would set tough conditions for Tsvangirai, leader of the dominant formation of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. Tsvangirai outpolled Mr. Mugabe in the March 29 presidential ballot, but declined to take part in a June 27 run-off amidst escalating political violence.

The ZANU-PF sources said Mr. Mugabe insists that the opposition must not expect him to become a purely ceremonial president, and that it must agree to work within a government of national unity, rather than the transitional authority which it has been seeking.

Many of the MDC's civil society allies are adamant that the only acceptable arrangement is a transitional authority that would prepare the ground for new elections in two years.

Mr. Mugabe said Wednesday that he was totally committed to the success of the talks. He hinted he would compromise where possible but would not budge on certain issues.

Speaking in Senegal on Thursday after meeting with President Abdoulaye Wade, Tsvangirai said he was fairly satisfied with the progress of the talks, adding that the Monday deadline for conclusion of the negotiations, spelled out in the July 21 memorandum of understanding that established a general framework for talks, is a flexible target date.

Talks are expected to resume Sunday, political sources said.

Tsvangirai was quick to add that sticking points remain to be overcome. He told a British television network that the talks must ensure Mr. Mugabe an honorable exit through a transitional government which would have a life of two years.

Tsvangirai spokesman George Sibotshiwe told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Tsvangirai was briefing President Wade, who has previously made known his availability to help resolve the crisis, on progress achieved in negotiations to date

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