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Zimbabwe Negotiators In Pretoria Said To Wrap Power-Sharing Talks

Power-sharing talks between Zimbabwe's long-ruling ZANU-PF and both two formations of the Movement for Democratic Change concluded Thursday in Pretoria, according to sources close to the talks, and the resulting agreements were set to be handed over to President Robert Mugabe and MDC leaders Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara.

Sources in Harare and Pretoria said South African President Thabo Mbeki was expected to go to Harare on Sunday to encourage the principals to approve the accord. Mbeki, mediator in the crisis for the Southern African Development Community, had been expected in Harare Thursday, but the negotiators asked for more time, political sources said.

Despite the official optimism being expressed in Pretoria, the Zimbabwean government cast a shadow over outlook by moving to block a proposed consultation visit by United Nations Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs Haile Menkerios.

Menkerios is a member of the high-level reference group recently formed to support the talks. The reference group also includes delegates from SADC and the African Union.

Sources in Harare said the government noted that Menkerios’s visit was not announced in advance, while top officials including Mr. Mugabe will be on a long Heroes Day holiday.

But the same sources reported suspicions among Harare officials that Menkerios has been sent by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on behalf of the United States and Great Britain, setting up what they denounced as a “parallel process.”

The U.N. secretary general’s assistant spokesman, Farhan Haq, told VOA that Menkerios is still in Pretoria and “arrangements for him to travel to Harare are still to be worked out.”

International Crisis Group Senior Analyst Sydney Masamvu told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that a breakthrough is likely – but cautioned the deal must be signed before celebrations are in order as anything can happen in politics.

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