Zimbabwe's opposition party said yesterday that it had begun talks with President Robert Mugabe's party over last month's disputed presidential election but the divisions run so deep that progress would be difficult.
Eddie Cross, the economic affairs secretary for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), said the talks with Zanu-PF – chaired by the South African President, Thabo Mbeki, and the Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo – had got off to a slow start in Vumba, about 175 miles north-east of Harare.
Mr Cross said: "I don't think you will hear anything for some days. The gulf between the two parties is so wide that it will take some days to agree on what they are going to talk about." Mr Cross said that there was unlikely to be progress unless Mr Mbeki and Mr Obasanjo brought pressure to bear on both sides.
Mr Cross said the MDC secretary general, Welshman Ncube, was leading the opposition team, with the parliamentary speaker, Emmerson Mnangagwa, heading the representatives from Zanu-PF.
Earlier, there had been confusion over the status of the talks, with some MDC and Zanu-PF officials saying they knew nothing about them. The negotiations were initiated by South Africa and Nigeria to stabilise the political situation in Zimbabwe. The two countries, which are pushing for a shared government, have led the efforts to launch a dialogue between Zimbabwe's bitterly divided parties.