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Move To Re-Engage S. Africa's Mbeki As Zimbabwe Mediator

The Southern African Development Community's committee on politics and defense has formally endorsed a continued mediation role in the Zimbabwe power-sharing process for former South African president Thabo Mbeki, SADC officials said Wednesday.

But Mbeki did not immediately indicate whether he was prepared to continue mediating. His spokesman said Mbeki would issue a statement within days.

SADC Executive Secretary Tomaz Salamao told VOA he spoke on Wednesday with South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, who took office last week, and told him the regional body wants Mbeki to stay on as mediator. Salamao said he asked Mr. Motlanthe to communicate that message to Mbeki.

Mbeki spokesman Mukoni Ratshitanga told VOA that Mbeki will issue a statement as to his possible future involvement as mediator within a few days.

SADC sources say they would have liked to see Mbeki already on his way to Harare to try to unblock the impasse over the composition of the cabinet.

Salamao confirmed to VOA that the Movement for Democratic Change appealed to the regional grouping to involve itself in the dispute over which key cabinet posts should go to MDC politicians and which to members of President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF.

President Mugabe and prime minister-in-waiting Morgan Tsvangirai failed to agree on the distribution of major cabinet portfolios in a meeting on Tuesday, MDC sources said.

But Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, ZANU-PF's chief negotiator in the power-sharing deal signed on Sept. 15, told reporters on Wednesday that there is no deadlock and that no outside mediation is needed to resolve the cabinet question.

Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the Tsvangirai MDC formation told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that SADC and the African Union must get involved now.

Johannesburg-based foreign affairs expert David Monyae told reporter Zulu that Mbeki is the right person to mediate though he is no longer South Africa's president

Economist Luxon Zembe said in an interview from Harare that delay presents serious risks, warning of civil unrest if a new government does not take action soon.

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