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Zimbabwe's Tsvangirai Inclined To Join Government, Faces Party Dissent

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party said Thursday it had endorsed the proposal for political power-sharing offered earlier this week by a summit of the Southern African Development Community, but the opposition Movement for Democratic Change of prime minister-designate remained to set the party's position on the deal.

Political sources said Tsvangirai's MDC formation was deeply divided on whether to enter the proposed government of national unity under the terms proposed by the regional leaders on Tuesday. The latest deal is not so different from earlier iterations, but takes account of the outstanding issues identified by Tsvangirai's party by establishing joint committees on the appointment of provincial governors, ambassadors and other senior officials, and the administration of the country's often-oppressive security apparatus.

Tsvangirai has indicated that he wishes to join the government, and the national executive council of his MDC formation - rival MDC formation leader Arthur Mutambara has long been urging the formation of a government as a moral imperative given the humanitarian emergency - was to gather on Friday to reach a decision in the matter.

Returning Wednesday evening from the SADC summit in South Africa, the opposition leader indicated his position to reporters at the Harare International Airport.

"We have our position regarding certain decisions in that communiqué," said Tsvangirai, who had earlier stated in newspaper interviews his inclination to join the government.

"We however have a national council meeting where we will give a direction as to how we hope to deal with the problems the people are facing. It is a historic decision that we have to make and I hope that the party will be united in ensuring that we respond to the needs on the ground and to the expectation of Zimbabweans," he said.

But MDC sources said there was stiff opposition within the party to Tsvangirai's position by those who believed he should have held out for further concessions from Mr. Mugabe.

Botswanan Foreign Minister Phandu Skelemani also objected to the deal, dissenting with the communiqué issued by his SADC peers. He said it would be better to hold new elections than form a government leaving major issues to be resolved once it is in place.

The powerful Congress of South African Trade Unions and the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions issued a a joint statement saying the unity government is no panacea for the crisis, urging the installation of a neutral transitional government until elections can be held.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama had a telephone conversation with South African President Kgalema Montlanthe, SADC's chairman, urging him to resolve the crisis.

ZANU-PF information committee member Chris Mutsvangwa told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the party is hopeful the deal can work.

Tsvangirai said he hopes his party will have unity of purpose at this potential turning point.

The combined MDC claimed a majority in general elections held last March, and Tsvangirai beat Mr. Mugabe in the presidential contest but failed to secure an outright majority by the official - and much-contested official count. Post post-election violence mounted in the approach to a June run-off from which Tsvangirai withdrew in protest, leaving Mr. Mugabe uncontested.

International protests and diplomatic maneuvering by SADC and the African Union led to the power-sharing agreement signed on Sept. 15 but to date not implemented.

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