Mon, Jan 19, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Mugabe rules out compromise in talks


Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe ruled out giving any concessions in power-sharing talks, saying Zimbabwe’s opposition had one last chance to join a national unity government, a state newspaper reported yesterday.

Mugabe and Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai were to meet today for talks aimed at implementing a power-sharing agreement signed in September but stalled by disagreements over Cabinet posts.

“This is the occasion when it’s either, they accept, or it’s a break,” Mugabe was quoted by the Sunday Mail as saying. “If they have any issues they deem outstanding, they can raise them after they come into the inclusive government.”

Under the power-sharing accord, 84-year-old Mugabe would remain president, Tsvangirai would become prime minister and nearly all major Cabinet ministries would go to Mugabe’s party.

But the Movement for Democratic Change has insisted on controlling the Home Affairs Ministry in charge of police, which are accused of some of Zimbabwe’s worst violence and a wave of abductions of opposition supporters.

Tsvangirai — who returned on Saturday after two months abroad — said he would not be “bulldozed” into joining a lopsided government, and has rejected proposals to split the Home Affairs Ministry.

Tsvangirai won the first round of presidential elections in March, but pulled out of the runoff vote because of violence against his supporters.

The talks today — also including the presidents of South Africa and Mozambique and regional mediator Thabo Mbeki — are being held to try to resolve the impasse.

But Mugabe indicated his patience was running out.

“We have gone past negotiations and whatever concessions were there to be made have already been made,” the Sunday Mail quoted him as saying.

He said his party had fulfilled all its responsibilities as part of the power-sharing accord.

“All that remains is fulfilling the agreement by forming an inclusive government,” he said.

Since the power-sharing accord was reached, Zimbabwe’s economic crisis has worsened.

There are shortages of most major goods. The education and health systems have collapsed and an epidemic of cholera blamed on the break down in sanitation and sewerage has killed more than 2,200 people.

After a two day visit, UN Children’s Fund chief Ann Veneman said on Saturday that UNICEF would donate US$5 million to help pay Zimbabwean health workers’ salaries.

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