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Step Forward In Troubled Zimbabwe Power-Sharing Talks

After weeks of stalemate, talks among Zimbabwe's main political parties on sharing power in a national unity government moved forward on Thursday as negotiators agreed on the form of a constitutional amendment to establish the new office of prime minister.

The draft amendment was being sent to President Robert Mugabe, head of the long-ruling ZANU-PF party, Morgan Tsvangirai, founder of the Movement for Democratic Change and prime minister-designate under the power-sharing deal signed Sept. 15, and rival MDC leader Arthur Mutambara, designated deputy prime minister in the proposed government.

If the draft amendment meets their approval it can move on to parliament for passage and eventual signature into law by Mr. Mugabe - but Tsvangirai MDC sources warned that the bill might not pass if Mr. Mugabe does not make further concessions on sharing key posts.

The power-sharing negotiations in the Johannesburg suburb of Sandton were still proceeding under the mediation of Thabo Mbeki, the former South African president, despite the demand this week by the Tsvangirai MDC formation that he be replaced as talks facilitator. Tsvangirai charged in a statement this week that Mbeki misrepresented the content of talks.

Relations between Mbeki andTsvangirai hit what seemed to be a new low after Mbeki sent the opposition leader a letter taking him to task for dismissing recommendations by the Southern African Development Community urging speedy formation of the national unity government, and implying that he was beholden to and under the influence of Western governments.

Harare-based political analyst Rejoice Ngwenya told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that that in strife-ridden Zimbabwe, the agreement on the the constitutional amendment draft offered the country's long-suffering citizens a glimmer of hope.

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