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Top-Level Zimbabwe Unity Government Talks Inconclusive, Resume Monday

A meeting on Thursday between the principals in Zimbabwe's national unity government that was intended to resolve a range of potentially destabilizing issues ended inconclusively, according to government sources who said it was scheduled to resume on Monday.

The five-hour meeting involved President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, respectively heads of the long-ruling ZANU-PF party and the greater and lesser formations of the Movement for Democratic Change.

Mr. Tsvangirai had proposed the meeting with Mr. Mugabe as a means of resolving a number of issues troubling the unity government, some going back to the government's formation in February, others which have cropped up since its launch.

Such vexed questions included the ongoing invasions of white-owned commercial farms, the president’s recent unilateral reassignment of ministerial responsibilities, and appointments to top posts including the governorship of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.

Mr. Tsvangirai also wanted to take up Mr. Mugabe's refusal to swear in Roy Bennett, who the prime minister has designated deputy agriculture minister-designate. Bennett was arrested on Feb. 13 as the rest of the cabinet was sworn in and held by authorities for weeks on charges connected with a 2006 case alleging a plot to kill Mr. Mugabe.

Bennett and Mr. Tsvangirai's MDC formation have dismissed the charges as political.

Sources privy to Thursday's meeting said the principals clashed with Mr Mugabe, who sources said made few concessions despite advice from ZANU-PF members of the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee, a panel set up to help resolve such conflicts.

Minister of State Gorden Moyo, attached to the prime minister's office, said "considerable progress has been made on all issues" with final decisions to be reached Monday.

But Moyo declined to offer details on what progress, if any, had been achieved.

Tsvangirai on Wednesday revealed some impatience with the situation, saying such issues must be resolved and cannot hang over the government indefinitely.

Mutambara echoed those sentiments in comments to reporters Thursday.

South African-based political analyst Sydney Masamvu of the International Crisis Group told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that foot-dragging by Mr. Mugabe can be attributed to ZANU-PF's entrenched system of political patronage.

Earlier Thursday, following a meeting with British Ambassador Andrew Pocock, Mutambara said he had received assurances London will support the unity government.

But Mutambara told reporters that Harare must spruce up its image if other Western powers are to follow suit, as correspondent Thomas Chiripasi reported from Harare.

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