Zimbabwe leaders ‘to sign deal’

 Zimbabwe leaders \'to sign deal\'

Zimbabwe leaders 'to sign deal'

Zimbabwe’s ruling party and opposition are close to signing a deal outlining a framework for talks on the country’s political crisis, a UN envoy says.

Haile Menkerios, the UN’s envoy to Zimbabwe, expects a deal to be signed by President Robert Mugabe and the opposition’s Morgan Tsvangirai.

The agreement was due to be signed last week but Mr Tsvangirai pulled out.

The two sides are locked in a dispute over presidential elections – which they both claim to have won.

Mr Tsvangirai garnered more votes in the initial presidential poll – but election officials said there was no outright winner and called for a run-off.

Mr Mugabe won the run-off – but he was the only candidate after Mr Tsvangirai pulled out, accusing the government of mounting a campaign of violence against his supporters.

Opposition demands

Mr Menkerios said he believed the two men had agreed a draft memorandum of understanding setting out the terms under which they could enter direct negotiations.
But he said both men would have to sign the document to “clear the way” for talks.

Mr Tsvangirai’s party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), still has several conditions to be met before it will agree to talks with Mr Mugabe.

Party spokesman George Sibotshiwe told the BBC that future talks would remain conditional on a complete cessation of violence and the release of all political prisoners.

“We want a government that creates a platform for us to democratise our society, in order for us to have a genuinely free and fair election,” he said.

But he added that he expected the memorandum to be signed this week.

Mbeki ‘problem’

The MDC’s demands led Mr Tsvangirai to feel the need to pull out of signing the deal last week.

Among the problems identified by the MDC was South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki – the lead negotiator in international talks on Zimbabwe.

They accused him of being biased in favour of Mr Mugabe, and Mr Tsvangirai had asked for another envoy to join the talks.

It was later announced that a group of senior diplomats, drawn from the UN, African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (Sadc), would help Mr Mbeki – a move welcomed by Mr Tsvangirai.

Since then, several senior diplomats and national leaders have expressed confidence that the agreement would eventually be signed.


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