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Tough Talk, But Uncertainty, As Zimbabwe Parties Face Power-Sharing Summit

The ruling ZANU-PF party of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and the formation of the Movement for Democratic Change led by Morgan Tsvangirai were hardening their positions on Friday with an extraordinary summit of the Southern African Development Community on tap Monday, but voiced uncertainty as to what happens if the power-sharing process ends.

Political sources said it will be up to the SADC leaders gathering in Pretoria, South Africa, to unblock the stalemate between Mr. Mugabe and Tsvangirai over the terms on which they might form a government of national unity to address the country's deep crisis.

Politicians on both sides of the divide said they did not know where the country would go next if the two leaders cannot overcome their differences with SADC's help.

The Zimbabwe Independent newspaper reported that Mr. Mugabe has declared that his main purpose in going to the summit is to ask Southern African leaders to give him a green light to form a government without the participation of Tsvangirai's MDC formation.

ZANU-PF chief negotiator Patrick Chinamasa told VOA that this was mere speculation. But he reiterated that the longtime ruling party, which lost control of parliament in March elections, would not meet the demands Tsvangirai has insisted must be met in order for his MDC formation to join a government - especially the equitable distribution of top posts.

The rival MDC formation of Arthur Mutambara has said it would not join without Tsvangirai - but Mutambara has blasted both Tsvangirai and Mr. Mugabe for what he characterized as their irresponsibility for failing to form a government given the country's parlous state.

Around 5 million people depend on international food distributions to fend off hunger, cholera has claimed more than 2,750 lives and continues to spread, and hyperinflation is running at an annual percentage rate estimated by some economists in the quintillions. The state health and school systems have collapsed along with public water supplies.

Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of Tsvangirai’s MDC formation told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the party remains optimistic ahead of the summit - but warned that the unilateral formation of a government would have grave consequences.

ZANU-PF Chief Parliamentary Whip Joram Gumbo said his party has adopted no position on what it will do next if talks on the margins of Monday's SADC summit should fail - but he added that the talks must be brought to a conclusion without further delay.

Some analysts say the definitive collapse of the power-sharing process would mean a new round of elections - but many in Zimbabwe dread such an outcome given the trauma of the last round of balloting which ushered in months of deadly political violence.

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