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Two Weeks Into Power-Sharing, Zimbabwe's Mugabe Hints At Elections In Two Years

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe said the country could have a new constitution within 18 to 24 months, after which new elections will be held, state media reported Thursday.

The state-controlled Herald newspaper said Mr. Mugabe commented on the election timetable during a birthday interview. Mr. Mugabe turned 85 on Saturday, Feb. 21, but celebrations are to be held this Saturday in Chinhoyi, north of Harare.

Responding to statements yesterday by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, his partner since Feb. 13 in a unity government, Mr. Mugabe said he would not reverse his appointments this week of 31 ministerial permanent secretaries, or of Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono and Attorney General Johannes Tomana, to which Mr. Tsvangirai has objected.

The president said the appointments had been made legally and the individuals holding those offices had been vetted by the responsible authorities to ascertain their suitability.

"I do not see any reason why those people should go and they will not go," he said.

Gono has been criticized in many quarters for fueling hyperinflation by printing money in vast quantities to fund government operations. Mr. Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change has accused Tomana of collaborating with the security apparatus in repressive policies.

Tsvangirai took exception in particular to the appointments of the permanent secretaries with no intra-government consultation, saying this undermined the unity government. He said the appointments were unconstitutional and consequently were "null and void."

Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of Tsvangirai's MDC formation told reporter Blessing Zulu that the party’s national executive will meet on Friday to assess power-sharing.

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

NB: This report corrects the location of the birthday celebration for Mr. Mugabe, which was given in an earlier version as Masvingo.