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Consultation, Horse-Trading In Zimbabwe Ahead Of Power-Sharing Deal Closing

Political party leaders in Zimbabwe were deep in consultations and haggling over cabinet posts Saturday in preparation for Monday's signing of a power-sharing deal reached late Thursday by the former ruling ZANU-PF party and the Movement for Democratic Change.

Sources said President Robert Mugabe was briefing the politburo of his ZANU-PF party on the deal contracted with the former opposition party, while leaders of both formations of the MDC were focused on the ministerial portfolios they hope soon to control.

The unity government accord took shape on Thursday ending eight weeks of negotiations under mediation of South African President Thabo Mbeki. The quest for a power-sharing government was launched as a way out of the impasse created by contested elections followed by months of political violence mainly targeting the opposition.

The two formations of the MDC in those elections claimed a majority in the lower house of parliament, and MDC founder Morgan Tsvangirai defeated Mr. Mugabe in the March 29 presidential ballot. But a contested official count said he fell short of a majority.

Reactions to deal continued to emerge from regional and international players. African Union Commission Chairman Jean Ping said the political compact marked "a turning point” on Zimbabwe's path toward reconciliation and socio-economic recovery.

From the European Union Presidency currently held by France came a statement saying the EU welcomes the agreement. The EU said on Friday that it is reconsidering its earlier decision to extend targeted sanctions against top officials in light of the accord.

In Washington, U.S. State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters on Friday that the American government is waiting for more details on the power-sharing arrangement before taking a position on it.

Handel Mlilo, representative of the Tsvangirai MDC formation in the United States, said he understood U.S. caution but expressed optimism on expanded assistance on the basis of the power-sharing arrangement.

The big question for many observers in Zimbabwe was which ministerial portfolios the former opposition would claim and which would remain in ZANU-PF hands.

The Reuters news agency quoted MDC sources as saying the former opposition wants its people in the home affairs, justice and finance ministries.

Deputy Spokesman Renson Gasela of the MDC formation led by Arthur Mutambara said Mutambara, Mr. Mugabe and Tsvangirai met Saturday to allocate ministries.

In the Midlands town of Kwekwe, meanwhile, youth leaders said the crisis in education is among those the new government must urgently address.

As ZANU-PF's youth militia was deeply implicated in post-election violence, there is need to focus on healing and reconciliation targeting young Zimbabweans in particular, the youth leaders told correspondent Taurai Shava of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe.

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