Efforts by Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change to engage regional heads of state to resolve the political crisis in Harare have been set back with word that a meeting of the SADC troika on security and defense next week will bring together member state ministers, not heads of state or government.
Observers said sending ministers instead of heads of state in effect downgraded the troika session and reduced its chances of resolving the crisis in Harare.
Mr. Tsvangirai spent much of the past week intensively lobbying SADC leaders with stops in Mozambique, South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola.
Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara meanwhile called a crisis meeting Monday in hopes of bringing Mr. Tsvangirai face to face with President Robert Mugabe before the troika meets.
Sources in Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party said it will insist on the lifting of Western sanctions, pointing to progress resolving outstanding issues, in particular the announcement that five MDC ambassadors will shortly be dispatched abroad after months of delay.
SADC Executive Secretary Tomaz Salomao told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the ministerial-level delegates to the troika meeting on Thursday will assess the situation and decide whether a meeting of heads of state is warranted.
Information Minister Ronnie Shikapwasha of Zambia, which holds the vice chairmanship of the troika, confirmed a Zambian minister will attend.
But Tsvangirai MDC Secretary General Tendai Biti, Zimbabwean minister of finance, said Salomao gave an assurance that the heads of state will make the trek to Harare.