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Top-Level Meeting Fails To Resolve Deadlock in Zimbabwe Unity Government

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai met face-to-face on Monday for the first time since Mr. Tsvangirai declared Oct. 16 that his Movement for Democratic Change formation was disengaging from Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF in their unity government, but sources said no progress was made on resolving that dispute.

The two political rivals remained "poles apart" after four-hours of what political sources described as frank and at times highly charged discussions, one source said.

This senior sources said the meeting focused in particular on the arrests over the weekend of lawmakers of Mr. Tsvangirai's MDC grouping and of civil society activists, and the broader range of issues which have lingered since the government's formation in February.

Tsvangirai MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said the talks did not achieve the desired results. "The principals met. Sadly and tragically, the stalemate continues," he said, adding that the party would start preparing for new national elections if regional mediation fails.

Mr. Tsvangirai spent most of the past week shuttling from one capital to another of the Southern African Development Community seeking SADC intervention in the matter. SADC's troika or committee on security and defense is scheduled to meet on Thursday in Harare - but ministers, not heads of state, will represent Mozambique, Swaziland and Zambia.

Sources informed on Monday's meeting said Mr. Mugabe, confronted by Mr. Tsvangirai on the issues that have long troubled the power-sharing arrangement, accused the Tsvangirai MDC formation and the one led by Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara of failing to honor their 2008 pledge to campaign for the lifting of Western targeted sanctions.

"He (Mugabe) also told the prime minister that for the MDC governors to be sworn in, we should first of all campaign against sanctions and make sure all so-called pirate radio stations are closed down," said one senior official. "He continues to dig in," he said.

In a separate, on-the-record interview, Tsvangirai spokesman James Maridadi said the prime minister also brought up the weekend raid by police on a Harare house rented by the MDC to house senior officials from out of town while they are working in the capital.

After meeting with Mr. Mugabe, the prime minister then went into another meeting with the national executive of his MDC formation, sources said.

Mutambara was said to have mediated between Tsvangirai and Mugabe in Monday's meeting.

Tsvangirai spokesman Chamisa said the party believes in dialogue but won't be distracted from its objective of resolving outstanding issues in the GPA.

Political analyst Mlamuli Nkomo told reporter Ntungamili Nkomo of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that he believes President Mugabe is unfazed by the crisis.

MDC policy coordinator Eddie Cross said incidents in recent days add up to a crackdown on the MDC by security forces loyal to ZANU-PF intended to intimidate and destabilize it.

Cross said some 10,000 youth militia have been recruited nationwide by ZANU-PF. Reports have come from several provinces of militia threatening or assaulting teachers in a repeat of politically motivated violence witnessed in 2008 between the two election rounds.

An MDC source said ten thousand copies of the MDC newspaper Changing Times were seized and burned on Saturday in Bindura, Mashonaland Central province.

Cross told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the crackdown may not be specifically a response to Mr. Tsvangirai's decision to disengage from ZANU-PF as some believe, but could have been prepared earlier for eventual deployment.

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