Mugabe hails Zimbabwe's prospects for coalition

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The Independent Online

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe said today that marathon power-sharing talks with the opposition were about "little hurdles" and the rival sides were reaching consensus on the way forward.

Mugabe was set to resume talks later today with opposition leaders on a deal that could end a post-election political crisis and raise hopes of economic recovery.

The Zimbabwean leader told supporters at a rally in Harare that the talks - mediated by South African President Thabo Mbeki - showed progress.

"We had a long night negotiating on some little hurdles and I thought I should raise my fist but he (Mbeki) remained cool and said: 'Let us continue talking'," Mugabe said in a speech to honour those who died fighting in Zimbabwe's liberation war. He has been in power since independence from Britain in 1980.

Talks between Mugabe, opposition Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai and MDC breakaway faction leader Arthur Mutambara ended early today after 14 hours.

Tsvangirai declined to comment after the last session of talks, saying he expected Mbeki to release a statement on the negotiations.

Mbeki's spokesman, Mukoni Ratshitanga, said the South African leader was returning home today. But he declined to say whether a deal was imminent or whether the talks could fail.

The discussions are seen as the clearest sign yet that an agreement could be within reach to end a crisis that has intensified Zimbabwe's economic collapse and spread fears in the region of a total meltdown.

Talks began last month in the aftermath of Mugabe's unopposed re-election in June in a poll condemned throughout the world and boycotted by Tsvangirai because of attacks on his supporters.

Mutambara and other officials in his smaller MDC faction were present at the site where the Heroes' Day event will take place, a Reuters witness said. The opposition has in the past accused Mugabe's government of using such gatherings to attack its leaders, so that could be a sign of progress in talks.