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Zimbabwe Power-Sharing Talks Miss Deadline, But Said To Advance

Power-sharing talks between Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party and the two formations of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change continued Monday past the deadline set in the preliminary agreement signed July 21, but sources said pressure is mounting to wrap up the discussions before an Aug. 15 Southern African Development Community summit.

Tension is brewing around the summit itself with Botswana threatening to boycott the gathering if President Robert Mugabe should attend it.

Mukoni Ratshitanga, a spokesman in the office of South African President Thabo Mbeki, who is mediating the talks, said negotiations are likely to extend for several days beyond the agreed 14-day time-frame. But he was quick to add that the talks were progressing smoothly.

South Africa’s Star newspaper reported that Mr. Mbeki will hold new consultations Thursday with President Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Ratshitanga said he could not confirm this, but the report was lent credence by an article in Harare’s state-controlled Herald paper saying Mr. Mugabe won’t attend the Olympics opening in Beijing on Friday because of the importance he attaches to the ongoing negotiations.

However, European diplomats said Beijing had discouraged Mr. Mugabe from coming to avoid controversy with Western leaders who would be attending the ceremony.

Director Chris Landsberg of the Center for Policy Studies in Johannesburg told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the delay in talks was to be expected given the sensitivity and complexity of the task facing the negotiators.

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