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Mugabe, Opposition Leader Said to Reach Power-sharing Deal

BY Admin  September 12, 2008 at 11:55 AM EST

President Mugabe

The deal is intended to end the political crisis that has gripped the country since a disputed election earlier this year and a run-off vote largely cancelled over political violence.

Mbeki, who has been mediating talks for a month, said details of a national unity government would be released when the agreement is signed Monday at a formal ceremony in Harare.

“I am absolutely certain that the leadership of Zimbabwe is committed to implementing these agreements,” Mbeki said of the agreement. “The rest of the world needs to respect that the people of Zimbabwe have taken a decision about their own country.”

A senior opposition official told the Washington Post the deal would leave Mugabe as president and make Tsvangirai prime minister. Mugabe would still control the army, while Tsvangirai would oversee policy, the official said. Two opposition leaders told the Associated Press Tsvangirai would also control the police force, which has become notorious for brutal acts of violence against opposition supporters.

David Coltart, a senator and senior leader of one of Zimbabwe’s smaller opposition factions, told Reuters that under the plan Mugabe will remain head of the Cabinet and Zimbabwe’s combined opposition will come away with the majority in the Cabinet, with one more seat than Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party. ZANU-PF will have 15 seats, Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change will have 13 seats and Coltart’s group, a break-away MDC faction, will have three, according to the report.

Opposition officials also told the AP the deal calls for a new constitution within 18 months and new elections 90 days after a constitution referendum is held.

Zimbabwe has been in political and economic turmoil since elections in March that declared Tsvangirai the winner over Mugabe, but not by a large enough margin to avoid a run-off. Tsvangirai dropped out of the scheduled run-off in June after political violence against his party and supporters convinced him a fair election would be impossible.

Mbeki intervened as a mediator in the situation amid international pressure over his silence on the crisis in his neighboring country. Mugabe is praised by some in the region as an African leader not afraid of rejecting the influence of Western powers — but sharp criticism over his apparent efforts to deflect an open run-off vote stirred action by regional leaders like South Africa’s Mbeki.

Mbeki himself has faced criticism for his role in the crisis as some have claimed his “quiet diplomacy” has only placated Mugabe and deepened Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown.

The European Commission on Friday said it was “cautiously optimistic” about the developments and the European Union said it was reconsidering plans to extend its sanctions against Zimbabwe.

“We will have to evaluate the situation during the day,” a senior E.U. presidency diplomat told AFP.

The United Nations special representative on Zimbabwe, Haile Menkerios, told the BBC the announcement marked a way forward that all sides could live with.

The agreement marks the first time in Mugabe’s 28 year reign that he will have to give up some of his power. During that period, Zimbabwe has sunk into economic crisis, with the world’s highest inflation rate and chronic food and fuel shortages.