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Principals In Zimbabwe Unity Government Said To Be Close To Agreement

Sources close to the Zimbabwean government said President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara were close to agreement on most of the outstanding issues facing their unity government.

Minister of State Gorden Moyo, attached to Mr. Tsvangirai's office, declined to provide details but said the last issues would be ironed out Tuesday with a news conference to follow.

The prime minister expressed optimism last week and over the weekend with VOA and other outlets, saying he had developed a working relationship with President Mugabe.

Mr. Tsvangirai told the Financial Times Sunday in South Africa that no deadline loomed over the discussions despite the ultimatum laid down last week by Movement for Democratic Change Secretary General Tendai Biti, who is also Mr. Tsvangirai's finance minister.

Mr. Tsvangirai said his party had merely been expressing frustration at delays and setbacks in wrapping up a number of issues left unresolved when the unity government was formed in February by his MDC and Mr. Mugabe's long-ruling ZANU-PF party.

More issues have emerged since then, in particular the latest wave of takeovers of white-owned commercial farms, seen likely to alienate potential international donors.

London-based political analyst Bekithemba Mhlanga told reporter Sithandekile Mhlanga of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Mr. Tsvangirai’s expressions of optimism on the weekend indicated that progress was being made in discussions behind the scenes.

Elsewhere, the senior European Union official in Harare was quoted as saying that the EU is ready to engage with Harare providing it respects human rights and the rule of law.

The African Press Agency quoted Xavier Marchal, European Commission head of delegation in Harare, as saying it is “critically important for the EU and Zimbabwe” to build on the Global Political Agreement underpinning power-sharing to "move towards re-engagement."

This would be accomplished in the context of the Cotonou Treaty, he was quoted as saying.

The careful language did not appear to shift the European policy of demanding significant reform from the unity government before funding economic recovery. Marchal’s reported comments were made in the context of the May 9 Europe Day.

In remarks to government officials, diplomats and others reported by the Zimbabwean newspaper, Marchal simply urged the parties to power-sharing to work together.

VOA could not reach Marchal for further comment on EU-Zimbabwe relations as EU offices were closed on Monday in observation of Europe Day.

London-based Political analyst Dhewa Mavhinga of Human Rights Watch told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the Harare government won’t find it easy to meet EU benchmarks because its record does not yet confirm fundamental reform.

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